Monday, September 06, 2010

Nightwatch: A Novel by Sergai Lukyanenko

A very Russian book, I have to say, without really knowing what that means. That is, I know it only as someone born into Middle class America in the midst of the Cold War, who has read very little Russian literature, learned only a little of the great nation's history, who has heard only a little of its music, who has only once been slightly drunk on vodka, can know it.

In short, this is a depressing book, but not deeply depressing. Resignedly depressing, I guess, describes it best. That's the point of the book, I think -- not the magic, not the epic struggles between Dark and Light which it borrows from classic high fantasy and dumps into the streets of 1990s Moscow, not the Twilight that doesn't mean teen angst and sparkly vampires.

Ok, enough pseudo-philosophy. Night Watch is a good book, I'll say, although I can't say I like it much. I fully expect I'll read the other three books in the series. I don't expect to enjoy them. I do expect to think about them, and to put a little vodka in a tiny cold glass.

Can I tell you what it is about? Not really. In part, it's because, as often happens for me when reading translated works, I feel like I'm missing some cultural understanding that would make things a little more clear. Anton, Svetlana, Olga, Boris/Gesar -- these characters are familiar but not quite real. Anton, the protagonist and voice for this tale -- told mostly in first person, although it's perfectly possible the few third person segments could be him speaking, too -- is young, learning what it is to be an Other, and mostly over his head. He himself is a minor part of the world in which he lives, yet he's at the crux of all the events that take place. He's that single grain of rice, the bit of grit, the one who doesn't really know what to do and doesn't really have the power to do much, yet is still there, the crux around which things swirl.

And it's a sad, barren. desolate world.


sistinas said...

I love this series, although to be completely honest I have not had a chance to read the last book in the series Last Watch. I am either a) afraid the book will be bad like the final book in many other series or b) I just don't want to see it end.

Personally I liked the second book Day Watch the best.

The movie take on the book is not too bad either.

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raf said...

I assume you've read The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov? Russian from the Soviet period, but very nice.