Top positive review
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Could not put it down
on July 15, 2006
I have been a reader of Sci-Fi and Fantasy for almost 50 years, and I can say that this is the best "first novel in a series" I have read in about ten years. In fact, I literally could not put it down, starting it at 10PM on Friday night and finishing it at 3AM on Saturday morning. Then I couldn't sleep thinking about the ideas in the book.
If you have read translated Russian fiction, you will find a familiar feel to the translation that accentuates the best of the Russian Masters. At the same time, as ideas go, the premise is an ingenious variation on a recurrent and Manichean theme -- Light versus Dark. The story is told through the perspective of Anton, a Night Watcher, who works for an Agency that (1) keeps its eyes on the forces of the Dark; (2) enforces an uneasy and temporary truce with them; (3) pursues its own inscrutable agenda in preparation for the inevitible struggle to tip the balance of humanity one way or the other. I have not enjoyed a novel on this theme one-tenth as much since the late Roger Zelazny's "Jack of Shadows", which I thought superb. Yet, Night Watch is even better and more nuanced.
While long (about 500 pp), it is deliciously detailed but fast paced. The characters are wonderfully drawn as we discover new things about them through Anton's eyes, and he becomes increasingly ambivalent about the "party line." I agree that only a contemporary Russian could tell this story as effectively, given the recent history of that country. You will be constantly surprised and entertained as you deduce the real rules that govern this Earth and see the characters develop.
This was a great read, and I can't wait for the next installment. Because the novel is told in the first person point-of-view, I have some skepticism of how well this can be turned into a movie, and still convey the complex ideas and character development -- especially that going on in Anton.