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The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

September 19, 2008

I picked this book up out of curiosity, with no specific expectations. I’ve never seen the film. I did think that it would be good to read fantasy written by someone from outside the West. In that I was not disappointed.

A healthy pensioner in shorts with a video camera – that’s the prosperity of the West.” You don’t get quotes like that in the usual run of fantasy books.

I enjoy books that present you with their setting once, and then get on with exploring what is happening to the characters within that setting. The Night Watch is one such book. Set in modern day Moscow, it concerns Anton, a lowly member of the Night Watch. Their duty is to keep tabs on vampires, werewolves and other agents of the Dark. Not eliminate, but license and control. The Night Watch is similar to books by Kim Wilkins and Jason Nahrung, the melding of the modern and the supernatural in a believable, compelling, and everyday sort of way.

This book is sufficiently different, having emerged from modern Russia rather than a Western University. The Russian humour of the characters may escape some readers, so allow me to help by showing example of the following Russian joke.

In the immediate aftermath of Chernobyl, the critical need to seal the destroyed reactor in concrete. A series of robots were sent up to do the work. The American robot failed after ten minutes. The Japanese robot failed after twenty minutes. Finally, they sent up a Russian robot. After two hours, the Russian robot was still working, so the supervisor called up “Private Ivanov! You may now come down for a twenty minute cigarette break!”

Now you know all you need to about Russian humour.

If all The Night Watch were was an interesting perspective it would be a mere curio. Luckily the story is worth following, and the characters interesting. A Cold War version of the X-Files might look something like this. I liked it.

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