Bookshots: 'Night Watch' by Sergei Lukyanenko
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Who wrote it?
Sergei Lukyanenko, best know for his Watch series of fantasy novels (Night Watch is the first, originally published in 1998).
Plot in a Box:
A not-so-black-and-white battle between Darkness and Light, involving opposing organizations of Others (humans with supernatural powers).
Invent a new title for this book:
Read this if you liked:
Anything by Neil Gaiman, Walter Mosley’s short story “Juvenal Nyx,” and the works of Robert A. Heinlein.
Meet the book’s lead:
Anton Gorodetsky, a Night Watch agent and one of the “good guys.” His moral compass gets discombobulated by questionable missions.
Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:
Anton was already played by Konstantin Khabenskiy in the 2004 adaptation (I haven’t seen it, by the way). If Hollywood decides to remake Night Watch, they should cast Aidan Turner (Being Human, The Hobbit).
Setting: Would you want to live there?
In Russia, no. But in a world where a magical realm exists beneath the recognizable world and supernatural beasties are all too real? I could get into that.
What was your favorite sentence?
They showed me out in total silence, without any unnecessary words, without any shoulder-slapping or helpful advice. After all, what I was doing wasn’t such a big deal. I was only on my way to die.
Admittedly, I was familiar with both the film version of this book and its sequel Day Watch (they pop up on my Netflix “Recommended For You” page quite often), but I had no idea the movies began life as a series of books. I feel I’m much better off with this knowledge, as Night Watch is a thoroughly entertaining and discussable read. Lukyanenko not only offers top-notch urban fantasy with new twists on familiar mythos (vampires, werewolves, witches and warlocks, etc.), he also blends in elements of mystery, noir and even some dark comedy. But above all this, Night Watch poses some heavy duty questions about the nature of right and wrong, good and evil: namely, are the two ends of the moral spectrum really all that different? The Night Watch commits some truly dubious deeds in the name of the Light, and we often sympathize with the Day Watch’s goals. As Anton says in the novel, “Our goal is not to exterminate the Dark Ones. Our goal is to maintain the balance.” Simply put, neither good nor evil will ever reign supreme. They coexist and rely on each other.
A few things date the text—Anton’s penchant for carrying around his “Walkman,” for instance—but overall, fifteen years later, Night Watch still feels fresh and original. Lukyanenko ensures his magical characters are washed with a human resonance, so his fantastic concepts remain familiar and identifiable. Moreover, there are plenty of solid, complex and downright bad-ass female characters surrounding, supporting, and subverting the male protagonist. The prose is lean with little bursts of poetry here and there (“What did a young body mean, when you could see the dust of the centuries in the other person’s eyes?”). A great read for anyone looking for a long series to dive into, and for established fans, this re-release features a teaser of Lukyanenko’s forthcoming installment, New Watch.
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