Monday, January 18, 2010

Night Watch

I finished Sergei Lukyanenko's Night Watch, book 1 from the series World of Watches, this past weekend. On the one hand it was incredibly intriguing to read a fantasy premise I like and play around with writing myself. And it was also amazing to read about a magical Cold War. There were so many bits in the books I recognized from growing up during the Cold War; history lessons, politics (as theory and practice) and even a goodly shading of the flavour of Cold War movies in the intrigue.

I do not know how much of Lukyanenko's style remains after translation into English (Andrew Bromfeld) but I enjoyed the rhythm of the words in english. I enjoyed the character sketches; multifaceted glimpses into life and experience and personality.

BUT and it is a big but; when I'd reached the end of the book and realized I'd read the last line, I was left with one distinct feeling.

"Well, that was depressing as f*ck"

It really really was. And it is difficult for me not to think the style of depressing is something indicative to Russian writing - given that I've only ever read Russian writing in school and I found those to be depressing as well. The book starts and ends, essentially with "Life is about being a rock against the shore and how long you last against erosion. And even if at the end of the day you're still standing - the sea. does. not. stop.

Perhaps someone might describe this flavour I see as depressing as being realistic. Right now I'd be hard pressed to put into words and explain to them that I know there is a difference between depressing somewhat pessimistic grim reality and a reality that accepts itself while being less the olive in the press. I could not begin to describe the latter reality except to say I know it exists and being able to step away from the darker energy sucking grey where the difference between life and death is conscious breathing is something I myself have worked on for years.

I do not know if I will read book 2 in the series any time soon. The world building is wonderful. Not just the fantasy elements but Moscow and Russia; the balance between the old and the new, the many faces of Russia itself with its varied ethnicities. I can't claim to understand Russia, Russians, or Moscow just from reading one book. But I do feel as if I got a glimpse into another world and how another people view that world and I think that takes craft. The world building wants me to go back as soon as possible to read more about vampires, werewolves, the war between Light and Dark and the forces of individuals on either side.

I just don't think 2010 so far is a space where the -best- thing I could do for myself would be to read something where victory doesn't seem to last much past a good cup of tea.

Perhaps book 2 further enriches the relationships established in book 1. That is one other thing the book does, it makes it clear that in such a world and such a fight, how people hold on to, respect and love one another can be the only thing that matters. And I do tend to like books that stress connections as a need that humanity has in general, if with less focus on the strictly romantic; and that the lack of connections equals a lack of what makes an individual human.

But... I might just hold off a bit all the same. I can get similar via The Dresden Files and even though there's the same Light against The Dark there, the victories last at least as long as a good meal and a fine night's rest.