I recently read and reviewed Just Another Judgement Day and The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny by Simon R Green. The reviews will be up on BookThing soon. I avoided any spoilers if at all possible in those reviews, but it should be obvious I was less than impressed. In this post, I’ll rant about why, and there will be spoilers. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to moan about an author’s work, since they’ve put a lot of effort into it and I’ve basically done fuck all with my life. That’s why I’ve tried to keep the reviews slightly more objective. However, this is my blog, and I just need to vent about some stuff.
You have been warned – Nightside spoilers incoming!
There are really three things that are annoying me right now with the Nightside books. But before I go into detail let me just say, I loved the books up to about book 8. I loved the John Taylor character, and I enjoyed the back story to the Nightside, and the Lilith plot and all that jazz. My frustration with book 8 and book 9 comes from a place of having loved the earlier ones.
The Speaking Gun
In one of the earlier books, Taylor needs to find the Speaking Gun. It’s horrible, horrific, monstrous and not at all easy to find. He has to track down The Collector, which is no easy feat, and take the gun from him. I think, if memory serves, it forms a significant portion of the plot. Ultimately the gun doesn’t help and he destroys it, but there you go. Then, in Book 8 (Just Another Judgement Day) Taylor thinks he needs the gun again. The gun he already destroyed. How does he resolve this complex conundrum? By going to the Gun Shop on the Street of the Gods and picking it up. Woah! Wait a minute, how is it there? Well, because the Gun Shop has every weapon ever created or that will ever be created. Ah okay – so wait, why the fuck did he spend half a book getting it off The Collector? Oh and why does The Collector bother Collecting guns when the Gun Shop has every weapon in existence? Wouldn’t that make The Collector’s idea of collecting ‘unique’ things entirely meaningless?
The whole section just made me question the integrity of the Nightside world. Yes it’s a fucking weird place, but it has to have some rules, some consistency? If John Taylor knew about the Gun Shop, and he clearly did, and he clearly knew he could get the Speaking Gun there, it makes no sense that in a previous book it didn’t exist and he couldn’t get it from there. More-over, in book 9 and book 10 we see Exalibur arrive in the Nightside. Hang on, surely since the Gun Shop has every weapon that ever existed or might possibly exist, it’s already in the Nightside, in that very shop? In fact, on page 225 of my copy of Just Another Judgement Day the Gun Shop admits to having Excalibur already.
So either Simon Green is up to something fiendishly clever which I don’t understand (which is always possible), or he had a moment of confusion in which he forgot you can’t just have every weapon in existence in one place, and yet still have quests to find them or whispers about them mysteriously arriving.
At the end of Just Another Judgement Day, Walker offers his job to John Taylor. John acts surprised. Walker also talks to John about the fact that he’s dying. John acts surprised.
In The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny, on page 147, Walker tells John he is dying and that he wants him to take over his job. John acts surprised. Woah, hang on, they both knew each other knew, and they have already had this conversation? WTF! That’s a massive continuity miss, from either Simon or his editor. It seemed totally out of place in the 2nd book, confused the hell out of me and really dragged me out of the story. It honestly feels like book 8 and 9 were pulled together from lots of snatches of half written stories, a mishmash of short stories and plot lines just packed into two short novels. There’s probably enough material for one reasonable decent story spread across those two books.
Walker’s Offer Part Two
Okay, so let’s ignore the fact that Walker and John have basically the same conversation in both books. Let’s look at the actual process in book 9. Walker offers John his job, John says no. Walker shows John the horrible, callous, despicable things he does in the name of the job. Walker shows John how power seems to have corrupted him, and how the job has consumed his entire life. He’s a dying man, and he shows John the shocking things he has done, and continues to do in the name of protecting the Nightside. The last stroke, is that Walker kills his friend, The Collector, in cold blood. Initially we believe this is because Walker thinks the Collector is too powerful, but in the final anti-climactic scenes of the book we find it’s for a purpose even more nefarious. Walker now has a mind-transfer device that he claims will let him continue to do his job from inside John’s body, John will be dead, and of course, adds Walker, he will need to kill all of John’s friends.
Now folks, John Taylor is not a stupid man. He’s not really. He’s quite clever, has outwitted a lot of people, and knows his shit. How come he is blind?
He kills Walker, believing Walker to be evil and that he will do what he claims he will. Perhaps he is, perhaps he’s lost his mind. Or perhaps there’s an easier explanation. Walker is already dying. He wants John to do the job. John keeps saying no, so Walker pushes him harder and harder. Shows him how evil Walker has become, shows him he’ll stop at nothing, threatens John’s friends, the one thing John will never tolerate, and John kills him.
Now Walker is gone, killed by John Taylor. Walker spent hours showing John that everything thinks Walker is untouchable, and John Taylor just killed him. He is now de-facto The Man. Who in the Nightside will doubt his strength now? Who in the Nightside will shy away from his authority? When a hundred people need to be helped, John realises he will have to do it, because Walker is gone, so ‘for the time being’ he’ll take on the mantle. What the fucking fuck John Taylor, are you truly that dumb? Walker manipulated you into killing him because he knew you wouldn’t be able to watch people suffer in his absence, he knew you would take on his role, and he knew it was the only way to get you to do it.
Either John Taylor is suddenly as thick as pig shit, or I am. It’s just totally out of character. Maybe I’m reading too much into what happened, maybe Simon didn’t think it was obvious enough, I dunno, but to me it’s clear. Walker always has a scheme inside a plan inside an agenda inside a con. He made John kill him, he was dying anyway, and it was the best way to give John the job. I like it, but John Taylor is smart enough to see it – except he didn’t.