Welcome to the Nightside. It’s the secret heart of London, beating to its own rhythm, pumping lifeblood through the veins of its streets and alleys hidden in eternal darkness, where creatures of the night congregate and where the sun is afraid to shine. It’s the place to go if you’re looking to indulge the darker side of your nature—and to hell with the consequences.
Tales from the Nightside presents ten macabre mysteries that shine a dim beam into the neighborhood’s darkest corners to reveal things that should never come to light. Take a walk with such deadly and dangerous denizens of the Nightside as Razor Eddie, Dead Boy, and Larry Oblivion as they encounter things even more inhuman and inhumane than they are. And join John Taylor, the PI with a knack for finding lost things, as he confronts Sir Francis Varney, King of the Vampires, in a never-before-published novella-length adventure.
There may be nothing to be afraid of in the dark, but there’s plenty to be afraid of in the Nightside…
*Blurb from Goodreads
I love Simon R. Green’s The Nightside. I’ve even read some of the short stories in this collection before, which does not mean I didn’t love them again.
I’m also kind of glad now that I’ve been saving the last book in the series, The Bride Wore Black Leather, for a special reading occasion. Because Bride really is the last book in the Nightside. The author says that he has stopped, at least for the time being.
And while there’s a part of me that thinks John Taylor’s story may have reached a conclusion, I’m going to miss him and the rest of the gang. His line of snark and self-deprecation was always good for a laugh and a groan, often simultaneously.
Especially when he takes down his enemies with a handful of pepper. Not pepper spray, actual pepper. The condiment. He always has a handful in his pocket because, well, “condiments are our friends”, especially when they make our enemies sneeze themselves into oblivion, or at least into a good, solid punch from a knuckleduster in one’s other hand.
Of the ten stories in this collection, nine have been published before in various anthologies. The tenth story, The Big Game, is new.
Because these stories were originally intended for publication in places other than a Nightside collection, the author has included one of his usual snarky intros to the nature of the Nightside in each of the stories. This may possibly be too much of a good thing, but is understandable under the circumstances.
For those not familiar, the Nightside is the dark heart of London, where it’s always 3 o’clock in the morning, the dawn never comes, but something that will consume you, either simply because it can or with malice aforethought specially for you, is always hunting the unwary. If someone absolutely must have a sin or degradation that cannot be found elsewhere, it is certainly for sale (or rent) in the Nightside.
If you’ve ever read Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, the Nightside is kind of like that, but more predatory and with even more teeth.
Like most collections, some stories work better than others. If you’ve never visited the Nightside before, the earlier stories in the collection make a great introduction. If you’ve managed to find your way to the Nightside on some previous occasion, this collection provides origin stories for a few of the Nightside’s more colorful characters.
It’s also interesting to view the Nightside from a point of view other than John Taylor’s.
The stories that worked best for me in this collection were Razor Eddie’s Big Night Out, Lucy at Christmastime, The Spirit of the Thing, and How Do You Feel.
Razor Eddie’s Big Night Out is a story about the Street of the Gods. The author often uses a Street of the Gods in his fiction, it’s always a skewering of organized religion – all of them, all at once, and with extreme prejudice of the snarktastic kind. In the Nightside, any god with enough worshippers can set up a booth or a temple, depending on how much power they can muster. When the Authorities try to step in and clean up the place, one of the oldest gods on the street teams up with one of the most feared gods in the Nightside to get things back where they belong. We don’t often see the Nightside from Razor Eddie’s perspective, and this story gives us a tiny peek into the mind of the Punk God of the Straight-Razor.
How Do You Feel is Dead Boy’s story. It not just his origin story, it’s the origin story behind the origin story. Dead Boy is really dead, he’s just not gone. His consciousness is inhabiting his corpse, and has been for 30 years. In this story, he finally discovers not just how he became Dead Boy, but why it happened. And someone is going to pay. Finally.
Lucy at Christmastime is a cool story that does not feature any of the usual unusual suspects. It’s one of those slightly creepy stories that fools the reader. You start out believing that the narrator is talking about one thing, when it’s really another all along.
The Spirit of the Thing is a classic John Taylor story. John Taylor is a private investigator who lives and works in the Nightside. Once upon a time, his mother was Lilith, and he was intended to be the King of the Nightside, and he declined the honor. But part of his inherited power is that he isn’t just a private eye, he literally has a “Private Eye”, a third “eye” that, when he is willing to open it, allows him to see the truth behind the glamour of everything. And also find anything that he wants or needs. However, there are a lot of nasty things hiding behind powerful glamours in the Nightside, so using the eye takes a lot out of him. But when it’s necessary, the price is worth it.
In this story, a nasty barkeep hires John to find out who is watering the drinks in his disgusting bar. The owner of the Jolly Cripple intends to use John Taylor, but discovers in his last moment that he has made a horrible mistake, and Taylor makes sure they all come back to haunt him. At once.
I enjoyed this collection a lot. But then, I love the Nightside, and I’m going to miss it now that it’s over. As a collection, the stories worked together pretty well, in spite of having mostly been published before. If you enjoy urban fantasy of the dark and creepy kind, the Nightside will be right up your alley.
I give Tales from the Nightside an A-