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Future of the Nightside
on 6 January 2010
Walker has always been a central force in the morally grey Nightside -- he'll do just about anything, good or bad, to maintain the status quo.
But all that changes in the eleventh Nightside book, along with a lot of other stuff in the mystery zone between good and evil. Unfortunately "The Good, The Bad and the Uncanny" is a mixed bag of supernatural plots: it seems less like a cohesive book than a trio of interlaced short stories, and two of them suffer from some severe issues with pacing... but the subplot about Walker and John is tragically, horrifically brilliant.
As usual, John has weird cases -- first he has to get an elf lord (nicknamed Screech) from one of the Nightside to the other... and Walker is determined to stop him (cue werewolves, Neanderthal bikers, etc). As payment, Screech has some mildly freaky news for him. Then John is hired by Larry Oblivion, a zombie detective who wants to find his brother... except John can't find him. Oh yes, and his brother Hadley Oblivion, the terrifyingly divine Detective Inspectre, is back in the Nightside.
Finally, John is contacted by Walker, who reveals that he's terminally ill, and wants John to be his successor in the Nightside. Of course, John refuses -- and as he investigates the whereabouts of Larry's brother, Walker keeps popping up to show John the good, the bad and the uncanny about his job. The problem is, he isn't revealing everything to John -- and John starts to realize that Walker is more dangerous than ever before.
"The Good, the Bad and the Uncanny" is probably the wobbliest Nightside novel thus far -- it's basically a novella with two short stories twined around it, with very little connecting them. The central story about Walker is absolutely brilliant, a dark gem about temptation, fanaticism and mortality, but one of the side-plots is never really finished (except for a "to be continued" at the end), and the other is wrapped up rather hastily.
Fortunately the Nightside is as weird and deliciously freaky as ever; Green dabbles in a mansion dragged into hell, a transvestite super-heroINE in a fluffy pink car, the ultimate drug den, and a lobotomized Argus who can see the entire Nightside. And his writing is as vivid ("she grinned back at me like a shark scenting blood in the water") and clever as ever (when a trio of witches start yelling "All hail John Taylor, who shall be king hereafter!", he just says, "Alex put you up to this, didn't he?").
And there's a brilliant climactic scene with John and Walker, reminiscent of Christ being tempted by the Devil with all the kingdoms of the world... except this is the Nightside. On the other hand, some sections are stretched out -- there's a thirty-page car chase, and a forty-page flashback that has little to do with the plot.
Snarky anti-hero John Taylor is in some unpleasant situations here, especially since his gift sometimes doesn't work right, and we see how rock-hard John's principles can be. And Walker is a tragic, frightening figure here, a fanatical man who has sold his soul to maintain the Nightside, and is faced by the question of what will happen when he's gone. The Oblivion Brothers aren't quite as engaging -- often they seem like pallid copies of Dead Boy and the Walking Man.
John Taylor sees "The Good, The Bad and the Uncanny" in the eleventh Nightside novel, a wildly uneven affair that leaves one door open for mayhem in the next outing. Worth reading, but flawed.