This is the ninth Nightside story from Simon R. Green, and if you don’t know what to expect by this point then you’ve had your eyes closed throughout the previous books. This is not a book for someone who’s never read any of the previous Nightside novels – you absolutely need to read them all first, otherwise much of this one will go over your head.
Simon has built a canon of characters in the Nightside and uses them in this story like a well played set of cards, moving them in and out of scenes as required. The Nightside itself and the locations within it are almost characters in their own right, and as the story moves from place to place it feels a little like going back home after a long time away.
This time, the Walking Man has come to the Nightside, to clean it up, kill the sinners and do God’s work. John Taylor finds himself up against impossible odds, making impossible choices and doing his usual self reflection. The pace is solid, with a short reminder about how deadly John and Suzie are in the opening chapter, followed by a single relentless methodical slog to the end. The prose is typical of Simon’s work, forming clear images of the world, bringing humour and originality, and additionally in this story, giving us a real sense of the dreadful nature of the Nightside’s darkest corners.
As with Butcher’s Dresden books and Carey’s Felix Castor series, there are several threads running through all the Nightside stories. The nature of the Nightside itself, the Terrible Future that John has seen, the role of Walker in John’s life and the protection of the Nightside, and the hint of other forces moving and driving towards some kind of goal. There is also the relationship between John and Suzie Shooter. Just Another Judgement Day does manage to drive some of those threads forward, and two of those threads give us the most engaging and moving parts of the book.
However, the main plot line and the overall delivery seem lazy. There are a few sections with repeated phrases, some long descriptions of characters we’ve already met (taking up three or four pages at a time, several times, in a story which is only 263 pages long), and there’s no real urgency or sense of danger.
Perhaps Simon has written himself into a corner, the threats that Taylor has vanquished in previous books are so monumental, that it’s hard to imagine what kind of impending doom would get his heart racing. If John isn’t scared, and we certainly don’t get any sense of that in this story, then why should we be?
The final confrontation is oddly muted, and what could have been an extremely powerful scene turned into almost a caricature.
Despite those flaws, Green’s writing makes it easy to read, and results in a harmless few hours of entertainment. One for the fans, almost like a short postcard about what John is up to in between Major Events, and could have benefited from being half as long and more tightly focussed.