Audiobook Series Review: The Nightside by Simon R. Green

19 04 2013

One of my fears, when taking on an event like The Armchair Audies, is that I am going to find myself with a title that is part of a series, with hundreds of hours of listening to get through before even having to listen to the novel. Just so you understand me, I am not very OCD. I don’t keep my CD’s stored alphabetically or my books organized by color and size. Yet, when it comes to reading, I hate taking on a series out of order. It drives me crazy when an author mentions a little bit of something that happened in an earlier novel that I don’t know about. So, of course, this year, the wonderful people behind The Audies decided to nominate The Bride Wears Black Leather by Simon R. Green, the 12th and final novel in The Nightside series. Yes, the 12th. This means there are 11 novels previous to this one, full of back-story and events that culminate in this series finale. Roughly 70-80 hours of audio, produced through Audible, which means I won’t find them at the Library now be able to request them through the publisher.

Simply put, I would have to buy and listen to 11 other audiobooks on top of the 16 books in my category, all before the last week in May. Really can’t see that happening.

Luckily, through some Audible sales, and clever time managing, I knew I would be able to get some of the books of the series listened to before that date, maybe even most. Yet, the tough part was deciding which of the novels of the series to read. Every series, particularly in the Urban Fantasy genre, has books that are key to the overall story arch and others that are more standalone throwaway novels that can safely be skipped without making you unable to follow the overall tale being told. The key is figuring out which stories to listen to. So, I decided to be smart, and go the Simon R. Green forum and ask the fans. So, I posed the questions, telling them how I need the final book in the series, and was wondering what they believed to be the key entries in the series that must be listened before listening to the final book. I received two responses.

The first told me that I really don’t have to read any of the firs novels, that I probably would miss out on some of the tale by not knowing the backstories of the characters, but the plot stands alone pretty well.

I guess this could helpful, except for the fact that it didn’t answer the question I asked.

The second response told me I should probably read the first book.

Yeah. OK.

So, instead, I decide to try and figure it out on my own. At this point, I have listened to five of the books in the series. I skipped one (Book 3) which seemed pretty self contained and not sure where I am going to go from here. I thought I would give my overall impression on the series so far, and maybe some quick thoughts on each book I have read. As I finish further books in the series, I may edit in thoughts later, so if you are interested at all, feel free to check in down the road.

The Story:

The Nightside a paranormal Noir Urban Fantasy series that takes place in a secret area of London where it is always 3 AM and the streets are filled with monsters, old gods, creatures of myth, escapees from other dimensions and any other creepy otherworldly thing you can imagine. John Taylor was born in the Nightside. His mysterious mother betrayed his father, and his father drunk himself to death. Throughout his life, a mysterious enemy has been trying to kill him, while others look at him like a dark powerful prince. He has one strange gift, the ability to find almost anything, a gift that serves him in his role as Private Investigator. He eventually escapes the Nightside, but is drawn back in, returning to his home and the friends he left behind. Yet, someone still is trying to kill him, and he still knows nothing about his not quite human Mother and her plans for him and the Nightside.

My Thoughts:

Really, this is one odd series. I have a lot of mixed thoughts about it. I love the setting. In fact, it can be argued that the true main character of the series is not John Taylor but The Nightside itself. It’s full of so many interesting and bizarre characters each with their own powers and motivations. I love it’s blending of fantasy and science fiction, which included gods and fairies along side with robots, time travel and alternate futures. Yet, I find the plots and overall structure frustrating to the point of annoyance. Taylor rarely truly investigates things, just is moved around the board by various other powers. His only true contribution is his gift, which he can’t use because it will draw the attention of his enemies, except for of course, when he decides to use it. It’s the ultimate Dues Ex Machina, and it’s quite annoying at times.

There is an overall arch of the first half of the series that deals with his mother and her plans for the Nightside. This plays out over thee books (Books, 4,5,6) and is decently executed. Green does a good job introducing random elements in earlier books and having them become significant later. At this point, I have just completed this cycle within the series and am intrigued to see if the next novels become simply stand alones, or if he continues building overall arcs through multiple novels.

Narration Review:

Marc Vietor does a great job reading this series. He reads it with a sinister light British accent and a sneer that makes me imagine him twisting the ends of his large handlebar mustache. There are so many strange and colorful characters that he brings to life with wicked glee. Yet, the overall experience of listening to this audiobook series can be kind of annoying. The writing is so repetitive, using key phrases and terms over and over and unlike print you can’t just skim over them. I honestly think you can cut a good two hours out of each audiobook version by just eliminating any phrase that ends with the word “…Nightside.” Every character doesn’t just have a name, but a strange title, or phrase that is specific to them, and is used multiple times in each book. It can’t just be Razor Eddie, but “Razor Eddie, the punk God of the Straight Razor.” OK, I get it. Can we get back to the story involving Tommy Oblivion the effete existential detective and Shotgun Suzie aka Suzie Shooter aka "Oh Christ, it’s her, Run!" ? So, yeah… the production has some issues that get annoying, but Marc Vietor does some really cool things with it, and it’s easy to see why fans of the series are really taken with his work.

Something From the Nightside by Simon R. Green (The Nightside, Bk. 1)

Read by Marc Vietor

Audible Frontiers

Length: 5 Hrs 51 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B

It all starts when a beautiful women walks into John Taylor’s office seeking his help and talking of things he’s trying to forget. The first novel of this series is in its essence and introduction to The Nightside, with its thin plot almost an afterthought to the fascinating setting. There are some cool moments within this tale, yet it’s surrounded by some very predictable twists, a stunning lack of asking important questions by someone who is supposed to be a Private Investigator, and lots of rambling exposition. Overall it works, but just barely. I enjoyed more what the authors seemed to be setting up for future editions of the series more than anything that actually happened in this book.

Agents of Light and Darkness by Simon R. Green (The Nightside, Bk. 2)

Read by Marc Vietor

Audible Frontiers

Length: 5 Hrs 59 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: C+

When Johyn Taylor is asked to find the Unholy Grail, the last supper cup of Judas Iscariot embedded with the ultimate evil, all hell breaks lose. Literally. Angels and demons descend on the Nightside and John Taylor and his friends must deal wit obstacles at every turn in order to complete the job. I found this edition to the series to be a letdown, a pointless side trip in the overall story. Again there was some nice moments, but on the most part I was frustrated with the lack of direction in the series when finishing this.

Nightingale’s Lament by Simon R. Green (The Nightside, Bk. 3)

Read by Marc Vietor

Audible Frontiers

Length: 6 Hrs 40 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

[Not Yet Reviewed]

Hex and the City by Simon R. Green (The Nightside, Bk. 4)

Read by Marc Vietor

Audible Frontiers

Length: 8 Hrs 28 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B

When lady Luck hires John Taylor to investigate the origins of The Nightside, major powers set themselves against him. John Taylor knows he needs to be careful because this investigation is too personal, and may lead him on a course to his mother and the dark future his investigation could unleash. With Hex and the City the series gets back onto track, giving us the first real look into the overriding mythology of the series. While the investigational process is kid of annoying, basically going to more and more dangerous characters to ask for information, the many reveals and interesting twists along the way make up for it. While the action is lighter, the tone of the book is much more engaging.

Paths Not Taken by Simon R. Green (The Nightside, Bk. 5)

Read by Marc Vietor

Audible Frontiers

Length: 8 Hrs 59 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B+

In order to stop his mothers plans, John Taylor and friends must travel through time to learn the true origins of the Nightside. Hex and the City was a lot of fun, and perhaps my favorite book of the series so far. I think I have begun to get used to Taylor’s clumsy attempts to actual Investigate, and just had fun with it. It’s an interesting trip full of wrong turns and interesting interactions, and while the finale was a bit of a let down, it set it up from a pretty kick ass showdown for the next book. Greens humor shines through with this entry more so than in the previous novels.

Sharper Than a Serpents Tooth by Simon R. Green (The Nightside, Bk. 6)

Read by Marc Vietor

Audible Frontiers

Length: 8 Hrs 44 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B+

War has come to the Nightside. John Taylor’s mother is back, and her plans to change the Nightside into her vision is wreaking havoc. Yet, Taylor knows that if he tries to fight her directly it could lead the bleak future he visited previously. Now, he must get advice from enemies, and join up with those who don’t trust him to save The Nightside. This is the finale of the big story arc involving John Taylor’s mother, and Green pulls it off well. It’s full, of dark humor, brutal battles and lots of mayhem. The conclusion pays off well, yet leaves me wondering just where the series will go next.

Note: Further editions of the series will be added as they are listened to an reviewed, so feel free to check back later.

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6 responses

19 04 2013
Laurie C

You seem to be doing really well making your way through these! I’m finding more and more often that Audible is the only affordable route for some of the audiobooks I want to listen to, but I haven’t given in to Amazon yet and purchased an Audible subscription.

19 04 2013
Audiobibliophile

I too hate starting a series in the middle, have only done it a few times when I had no idea I was doing so. I applaud your commitment!

19 04 2013
nrlymrtl

I haven’t read Simon Green in years – read several of this series and his space opera series. I have been contemplating picking this series up in audio, and I think you have convinced me that I would enjoy the series keeping company during a commute.

22 04 2013
Dave Thompson

That’s some serious dedication on your part, Bob!

I read the first two, and remember thinking of them as NeverwhereLite. I loved the setting, and the characters were enjoyable enough, if not very realized or original. I liked them enough to order a few more of the books when the sale came up. I hope I enjoy them still – I’m a bit anxious their flaws will be more apparent to me now.

22 04 2013
Not The ITDepartment (@NotITDepartment)

My problem with The Nightside – and more with the audiobooks than the novels – is the repetition. “… in the Nightside.” At least once a page. When you’re reading them, you develop mental filters and your eyes skip over the words without actually reading them. When you’re listening to them, brilliant as the narration is, you don’t get that option. That said, I love the constantly strange characters, the fact that there’s very little that could be said to be “normal” in there at all. But then that’s how it is… in the Nightside.

21 05 2013
greytfriend

It’s a fun series if you don’t take it seriously. I did get stranded somewhere around book 9, I keep meaning to get back to it, but it’s never the priority anymore. I just don’t feel like dealing with the eye-rolling I’ll be doing when Green spends a large part of the book just showing of his many crazy creations, like we’re on an Oddities tour. Most of them have little to nothing to do with the plot, he’s just showing off his creativity by demonstrating over and over again that many weird, dangerous and sad people/creatures live in the Nightside. He does the same thing to a lesser degree in his Eddie Drood/Secret Histories books, but I love Gideon Emery’s voice and narration so much that it definitely lifts the books up a few notches from what would probably be an “eh” in print to a “must buy” as an audiobook.

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