Top critical review
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"He plucked out his own eyes. Said that he didn't want to see himself anymore."
on 10 January 2013
Recently out of nursing school, Edie Spence has a new job, she's the newest nurse on Y4, a floor buried in County's recesses that solely exists to take care of society's paranormals, their servants and donors.
The floor is run and sponsored by the mysterious "Consortium", and "The Shadows", an equally mysterious, and feared, set of creatures that, sometimes, give mystical protection to the creatures and staff of Y4, and which are known to tinker and tamper with both the staff and patient's minds, and which empathically feed on misery and pain, both human and inhuman. Then, while Edie is just getting adjusted to the way things are run here, a vampire donor/servant is admitted, and he's near death, but he gets a cryptic message out. It's "Save her". She knows she should just blow this message off, it's not her job to rescue people, but she doesn't, and she is off to save her, or Anna, as she finds out the vampire's name. Eventually Edie finds Anna, finds out that she is a young vampire girl that is being used and abused, physically, mentally and sexually, and ends up killing one vampire and getting bit by another.
So it's off to Y4 to get treated, and in the process has to turn over her apartment to her junkie brother Jake. Mistake. Then she goes clubbing and meets/gets laid by a shapeshifter, almost ends up being arrested by a vampire bounty hunter for the murder of the vampire that was holding Anna hostage and gets a zombie (!) for a boyfriend (!!).
Times are tough, and I promised myself that I would stay with the urban fantasy series that I had previously been reading, and that I wouldn't start any new ones for a while. However, the product description of this novel made the hero a nurse, and made the novel out to have a strong medical backdrop. So, having been stuck in the medical system for the last thirty years I thought that I would give this new series a try. Now, while I found much of it interesting, there was too much wrong with this novel to raise it above average.
First of all, while there is indeed a medical angle to all of this, there just isn't enough to hold my interest. Edie is a nurse, and so is author Cassie Alexander, a burn ward RN, yet precious little of the medical background is actually used in the novel at all, with the Y4 floor barely being used or explained at all. And as an experienced nurse, I know that Alexander knows more than she's bothering to write about.
Another problem is the characters. Edie isn't really all that interesting a character, and who manages to blow every good chance she gets, and her co-workers are just furniture to be moved around and used when needed. The paranormals, including the shapeshifter, who will be a continuing character in the series, are all ill-defined. In fact, the shapeshifter will continue to become more and more of a deus ex machina throughout this series. This trend towards ill-defined or clichéd characters continues with Edie's junkie brother, who is just a tiresome bore, and a hot fashion model/vampire donor who is just another unstoppable Terminator clone.
The paranormal world of Cassie Alexander's "Nightshift" is also ill-defined. Really, by the end of the book Edie's world is pretty much left unexplained, although the vampire's world is vaguely, and clichedly touched on. I mean, what is a shapeshifter really, his abilities are never really explained, as are the werewolves who pop up, and exactly what is a vampire other than unstoppable, blood-drinking, immortals with super strength who ***yawn*** can't stand sunlight. Alexander is an sf writer and a nurse, she should know some biology and sociology, things to be used to populate her world with believable, plausible, and interesting creatures.
Then there is the just plain ridiculous, things that show that Alexander simply isn't taking this seriously, and may be insulting the intelligence of her audience. Things like Edie getting a zombie boyfriend, yeah?, just how does THAT work is never really explained either. Things like this, and like her junkie brother, are just tone-deaf filler that shows that Alexander just doesn't understand the urban fantasy form.
This is not to say that I disliked this novel, it's just that it reads like hackwork as the world and characters all seem second-rate and borrowed from other sources without anything original added to them. I mean, there are some good scenes here, but for the most part "Nightshifted" just seems like Alexander (who writes short-stories under another name) is faking it. Alexander just gives the impression of slumming, as she seems to have little enthusiasm for really taking the trouble to do some serious world building here. I appreciated the working class sensibility that this novel has, it's just that in the end there is little of substance, interest, or originality that makes this novel stand-out from the pack.