Jul. 31st, 2013

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Suddenly and violently and all over the place: An Introduction to the Nightside

Since the Nightside series by Simon R Green is a fairly small fandom, and I've recently written several crossovers in this fandom, I've decided to write a brief introduction for those unfamiliar with the series.

Before I do, it's worth noting that the series'  Wikipedia page is rather useful, the TV Tropes page less so, but still worth a quick look.

What is the Nightside, and who is John Taylor?

The first Nightside novel starts off as a kind of supernatural pastiche of the private eye pulp fiction genre, opening with PI John Taylor, apparently normal bloke, being asked to return to the nightmarish world he left behind - the Nightside - for the sake of a case. The Nightside is, we learn throughout the series, a place of unspeakable horrors and terrible wonders, where everything is available for the right price and it's always three o'clock in the morning. Monsters and myths alike walk the Nightside, from eldritch abominations to aliens to people from other time periods or realities. Magic and mad science and amorality rule here, although there are some exceptions. The point is, deep in the hidden heart of London is another realm which no sane person would venture into. This is where John Taylor grew up, and very much where he belongs.

John doesn't actually have much talent as an old-fashioned private eye; he himself says he wouldn't know a clue if he fell over it. What he does have, however, is his 'gift': a supernatural ability to see things out of the normal range of human sight and use this to find things. Finding things sounds like an innocuous talent, until you discover that John can use his gift to interact with the things he finds - so, he can empty bullets from guns, rip the fillings from teeth, trigger the weak point in spells, etcetera. The price of this gift is that when overused, John develops headaches and, if he's gone way too far, occasionally bleeds from the eyes and ears.

At the beginning of the series, John Taylor is in London Proper hiding from a set of Nightside horrors that have stalked him since he was a child, and the big mysteries of the first few books are a) who sent these creatures and why, and b) the true identity of John's long-missing mother, who left when he was a small child. These questions are answered partway through the series (and can be found on the Wikipedia page, although there are brief spoilers there).

John is smart-mouthed and attracts trouble and bucks authority, and acknowledges that he's one of the Nightside's more infamous denizens (mostly later in the books, when he takes a Level in Badassery) but he also has his own moral code, and he hates to see innocents hurt. In his own way, he also believes fervently in the necessity and potential of the Nightside.

So, why read the Nightside series?

For a start, it's funny. While it rapidly becomes a lot more than just a supernatural parody of the detective genre, the series never loses sight of that sense of humour, and never quite stops poking fun. It references pop culture in entertaining ways: for example, a common visitor to the Nightside is the Travelling Doctor (a nod to Doctor Who) and at one point John notes that no one with sense ever tries to track down the Maltese Falcon because it never ends well. Spotting these references is a lot of fun. The series also unabashedly riffs off established tropes in a knowing, nudge-wink way that makes them amusing instead of tiresome. And if you want a badass hero who always comes out on top despite the odds, who outsmarts his enemies and kicks their arses with a flash of smart-alecky wit  -  well, John Taylor is perfect. 

The characters:

Aprt from John Taylor, there's a number of re-occurring memorable characters who play a recurring role. The more important ones are discussed on the Wikipedia page, so I won't discuss them here.

Other resources:

Simon R Green's website has a list of all the books, as well as a short blurb about each one. Fanfiction can be found either on AO3, or at the LJ community, where different types of Nightside fanworks can be posted. You can also find artwork by searching 'Nightside' or 'John Taylor' on Deviantart.


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