Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko - UPDATED

Night Watch (Watch, #1)Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sergei Lukyanenko is a science-fiction and fantasy author, writing in Russian, and is arguably the most popular contemporary Russian sci-fi writer. His works often feature intense action-packed plots, interwoven with the moral dilemma of keeping one's humanity while being strong.

In The Night Watch, set in modern Moscow, the "Others" live among us, an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers who swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. A thousand-year treaty has maintained the balance of power, and the two sides coexist in an uneasy truce. But an ancient prophecy decrees that one supreme "Other" will rise up and tip the balance, plunging the world into a catastrophic war between the Dark and the Light. When a young boy with extraordinary powers emerges, fulfilling the first half of the prophecy, will the forces of the Light be able to keep the Dark from corrupting the boy and destroying the world?
This book was recommended by both daughters and Jeff Miller. Plus I liked the movie, though I realize the book is different in many ways. And now I can say I'm reading Russian novels. No need to say which Russian novels since people assume the big classics ... right?

The book is three novellas, linked by their setting and the fact that each is told by Anton, a Light Other who is now getting field experience after being a file clerk for several years. As he gets more experience, the reader learns more about the subtleties and intricacies of the world between Light and Dark. Each of the stories is thoroughly engrossing and although they build upon each other, the first two stand alone fairly well. The third conclusion brings the book's overall story arc to a conclusion.

The first page of the book has two messages, which are puzzling and amusing as an introduction. However when I had finished the book I realized they also served to sum up how the author uses the different stories and characters:
This text has been approved for distribution as conducive to the cause of Light.
The Night Watch

This text has been approved for distribution as conducive to the cause of Dark.
The Day Watch
Final result: simply fantastic. The way the three stories all look at Light and Dark, treaties and compromises, and even what it means to be unyielding on one side or the other ... not only provides a gripping adventure, but food for thought about our own lives.


Audio notes:

I was delighted to find the audio CD available for only $10 and promptly began listening in preparation for discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. Narrator Paul Michael has a low key style in reading this book. His dialogue reading features what sound like authentic Russian accents which enhance the book greatly since Anton's thoughts are read in a regular American accent. Initially I found this refreshing since I'd just been listening to one Jonathan Maberry's Joe Ledger series, which has a trademark intense, hard-hitting narrative style.

However, I soon noticed that whenever a character spoke there was very little emotion portrayed, no matter how stressful the moment. There are plenty of stressful, action-filled moments and to have them all conveyed in such a subdued fashion drained the color and excitement of the story for me. Eventually, the entire book seemed so colorless that I stopped listening and picked up the print copy to read the third novella.

My husband regularly has conference calls with Russians and says that he has noticed that monotonous quality when they are speaking English. He attributes it to the difficulty in speaking a foreign language and conducting business simultaneously. We both know from seeing the Night Watch movie that Russians are perfectly capable of verbally conveying a wide range of emotions.

Whatever the reason, I cannot recommend the audio if you want to experience the full flavor of the book.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you liked this book and your opinion matched mine.

    I very much liked this book and the rest of the series. The second one starts out a little weaker, but builds up.

    I certainly enjoyed the premise and the cold war nature between good and evil. I liked it despite the moral relativism at times regarding the nature of good and evil. In a lesser story this would have annoyed me more, but I can forgive much when a story is so thrilling and able to keep you guessing what is going on.