Simon Green doesn’t, in my opinion, write sophisticated stories. He does however write engaging stories and interesting characters. Into the Nightside brings together two reasonably short novels, Something from the Nightside and Agents of Light and Darkness which are the first and second Nightside stories. I think putting them into a single paperback is pretty sensible because they’re really quite short on their own.
The stories revolve around a private detective (John Taylor) who has a knack for finding people and things, and the twist is the dark core of London – the Nightside. A fantasy world within the normal world in which just about anything is possible. Something from the Nightside gives a good introduction to John and the Nightside location, and Agents of Light and Darkness drive us a little further into the underlying threads Simon is trying to build.
Being both quite short, neither story really has a multi-threaded complex plot, rather we follow John on investigations which lead him through the mysterious, dangerous and fantastic world that is the Nightside. We’re introduced to lots of characters with weird skills and histories and presented with magical beings and supernatural situations. Most of the story is driven by either John’s internal monologue, or his conversations with the characters around him, interspersed with action and violence.
The book is certainly engaging, but at times I had to work hard to ignore the flaws. Although John’s gift is the ability to find anything, he has built a reputation in the Nightside of being dangerous, and that reputation gets him out of rather more situations than it ought to. Characters we meet are increasingly bizarre without any single thread tying them together, characters from science fiction, history, fantasy, the supernatural all mingling together. At times I felt like I was looking at a rainbow made up of 86 colours, it might look pretty but you can’t really get a sense of any detail or specifics. I ended up letting a lot of the background wash over me.
We are led to believe the Nightside is huge and heavily populated, but when it comes under massive sustained attack in Agents of Light and Darkness I didn’t get the sense of thousands of people trying to escape, just a small few making a desperate stand. The Nightside is full of flat, endless hoards of non-descript fantastical beings.
Despite those issues, I did finish the book and I enjoyed it enough to pick up the second (Haunting the Nightside) which is again comprised of two stories.
Into the Nightside is pulp urban fantasy, it’s easy reading and the main characters are just engaging enough to keep you turning the pages despite the flaws.