Simon R. Green: Ghost of a Chance (2010) A Ghostfinders Novel

Ghost of a Chance

Well, well. Or rather – not well at all. As  much as I enjoyed – in a guilty pleasure kind of way – the first of Simon R. Green’s Nightside novels (as you can read here), I can’t really find anything to like in this one, the first in a new series. I’d say he temporarily lost his writing mojo when he concocted this trashy, pulpy tale of five ghost hunters and their big adventure. Prologue and chapter 1 were promising enough but from there it went downhill rapidly. The characters are flat and clichéd, the story is pure humbug and the descriptions do a ton of telling instead of showing. There is something evil in the London underground system. It’s the most powerful and most unknown evil ever. What is it? Powerful, old and evil. Did I mention evil? And powerful? Ha! Now that’s descriptive. I can really see this old powerful evil thingy . . . In the end it gets a face but by that time it’s too late. The book has already been sacrificed on the altar of bad descriptions and abysmal storytelling. (I hate it when writers invent one coincidence after the other to save the plot and this happens on every page here.)

I had a look at the amazon reviews and there were many by die-hard Simon R. Green fans and with the exception of one or two everyone hated this novel big time.

Green is a prolific writer. He has a unique imagination, macabre, silly and naughty too. He displays this in this book as well, but other than that it was really bad.

It’s unfortunate that this sorry effort is my second contribution to Carl’s RIP VIII. I was debating whether or not I should write about it but I decided people deserved to be warned.

My verdict: there isn’t a ghost of a chance that anyone will like this.

I’m sure that the RIP review site will provide reviews of much more interesting books. Should you want to join the challenge here’s where you can sign up.

Jim Butcher: Strom Front (2000) Book One of the Dresden Files

aa-stormfront

I didn’t see this coming. A while back I reviewed Simon R. Green’s Something From the Nightside. A so-called Paranormal-Noir or Paranormal hard-boiled detective novel. I enjoyed Green’s book although I knew that his Nightside novels  were often compared to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and that most people thought Butcher’s series was superior. I was very keen on trying Storm Front, the first Book of the Dresden Files and see what I would think. I was convinced I would like the Dresden Files much better.  Well . . .  I didn’t. And that for a simple reason: I found it too silly. It’s not without merits, I can see the appeal because, even more than Green’s Nightside novels, this is classic hardboiled detective terrain. Only the detective is a wizard. Even that would be OK but the magic that is used in this book did just not work for me. Dresden often conjures up things, and casts spells, and to do so he uses some fake Latin which was really painful to read. Ventas! Fuego! Scorpis!  . . .  Most of it sounded like some kind of Esperanto. I can’t help it but I’ve had a classic upbringing, I had to learn Latin and some old Greek at school, sloppy fake Latin conjuring is just not going to do it for me. I see that part of it is meant as a parody (or at least I hope so) but that didn’t make it any better.

The story as such was interesting enough. Harry is called by the police to help in the investigation of a grisly double murder. Two people have literally been turned inside out and it is obvious that the perpetrator used powerful black magic. At the same time Harry is  hired to look into the disappearance of someone’s husband who has been dabbling in magic.

In typical hardboiled style, women are after Harry, he gets beaten up more than once, the mob takes an interest in him, the Council of the white mages suspects he is the killer and so on and so forth. Some of it is quite amusing. Harry has a ghostly assistant who resides in a skull and who likes to chase girls. Some of the repartee with clients, journalists, police is amusing too.

Some people complained that Green squeezed the same amount of story that takes up 350 pages in the Dresden Files into barely 200 pages. I must say, I liked the condensed  approach much better. After I finished Something From the Nightside, I felt compelled to read the next in the series. I don’t think I’m going to read Book Two of the Dresden Files.

Simon R. Green: Something From the Nightside (2003)

Something From the Nightside

The Nightside is really just like any other major city, only amplified, intensified, like the city streets we walk in dreams and nightmares.

If Chandler’s Marlowe had been investigating paranormal crime, he’d probably be a lot like John Taylor, the hard-boiled PI from Simon R. Green’s Nightside series. While Harry Dresden, Jim Butcher’s PI, is currently the most famous psychic or occult detective, I decided to read Something From the Nightside before finally trying my first book of the Dresden Files. Both PI’s have their fan base but as long as I haven’t read anything else but a few short stories featuring Harry Dresden, I cannot compare. For the time being, I really like John Taylor.

One afternoon a beautiful woman knocks on John Taylor’s office door. Taylor is surprised. He is a luckless PI with fewer cases than a beginner, so he thinks that if anyone wants to hire him, there must be a catch. He is right. Joanna Barrett’s daughter went missing. But not in London. She went missing in the Nightside, the dark, mysterious, dangerous otherworldly heart of London. A place John Taylor has left and sworn to never return to. Why? Well, he has his reasons but he won’t tell. If he wasn’t in a precarious situation, he would never accept to help Joanna Barrett but he’s broke, so what can he do?

The story is a tale of paranormal crime, structured as portal/quest story which is very interesting. The Nightside can only be accessed through a portal hidden in the London underground tunnels.

It’s always night in the Nightside. It’s always three o’clock in the morning and the dawn never comes. People are always coming and going, drawn by needs that dare not speak their names, searching for pleasures and services, unforgivable in the sane daylight world. You can buy or sell anything in the Nightside, and no-one asks questions. No-one cares. There’s a nightclub where you can pay to see a fallen angel forever burning inside a pentacle drawn in baby’s blood. Or a decapitated goat’s head, that can tell the future in enigmatic verses of perfect iambic pentameter. There is a room where silence is caged, and colors are forbidden, and another where a dead nun will show you her stigmata, for the right price….

Crimes that are committed in the Nightside, are more gruesome than anywhere else in the world. People are crazy, addicted, deranged and evil. That’s why John Taylor left the place. That and because people want him dead which has something to do with his mother and what he inherited from her. Unfortunately John doesn’t know his mother and what she was.

Once in the Nightside, Joanna and John follow every lead they can find, interrogate people, fight monsters. They meet some extraordinary characters in the Nightside. Shotgun Suzie and Razor Eddie are just two of them. Both have their names for a reasons. They visit sleazy bars and derelict houses, travel into the future and back again.

Green’s imagination is quirky and amusing. The ideas he comes up with are a lot of fun. And I loved John Taylor’s voice, his sarcasm and macabre humour.

Maybe I will end up liking Harry Dresden more but for the time being, I really enjoyed the paranormal noir story Simon R. Green has concocted in Something from the Nightside. I may very well read the next volume as well.