Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth, by Simon R. Green (Ace, 2006)

In the Nightside, that deep, dark, rotten heart of London where it’s always 3 a.m. and Darwin plays a sadistic game of survival of the fittest, there are few beings as infamous as John Taylor. Private detective by choice, potential savior or destroyed by destiny, son of a mortal man and the mythical Lilith, he’s a force of un-nature to be reckoned with. Admittedly, he’d rather just mind his own business. He tried that once. It didn’t work. The Nightside drug him back in, kicking and screaming, and he’s stayed there ever since, handling some of the most bizarre cases imaginable. But the fecal matter has just hit the revolving blades, big-time. See, for the longest time, he didn’t know who his mother was. Then he found out who she was, why his father went mad, and why shadowy enemies from the future keep trying to kill him. Then John Taylor, along with his sometimes-partner Shotgun Suzie, took a trip back in time to visit pivotal points in the Nightside’s past, ultimately arriving at the very start, where they discovered why the Nightside was created, and why it’s destined to be destroyed one day.

That brings us to today, when John Taylor has sworn to do everything in his power to protect the Nightside from the power of its creator, his dear old mother, Lilith. You thought things were messy before? Let’s talk epic.

Angels. Demons. Heroes. Villians. Merlin Satanspawn. Dead Boy. Shotgun Suzie. The Oblivion brothers, Tommy and Larry. An army of faded ex-gods looking for a little somethin’ somethin’ under Lilith’s leadership. The Speaking Gun. Julien Advent, the Victorian Adventurer. Walker, voice of the Nightside Authorities. Razor Eddie, Punk God of the Straight Razor. The fate of the Nightside itself. And so much more.

This is the end of the six-book (plus one short story) Nightside saga begun back in Something From The Nightside, and all of those lingering questions and loose threads are addressed in one bizarrely over-the-top adventure that brings back all sorts of familiar (and deadly) faces. Who lives? Who dies? Who dies but refuses to stay dead? The answers are within.

This is not a book for new readers. Sure, you can pick it up and get the gist of things, but why would you want to? This is book six of a six book storyline, and frankly, the way Green writes, he could have cut out a lot of the repetition and compressed this series into a trilogy, a duology, or maybe just one of his trademark fat books of doom. Read the series in order, and you’ll appreciate it ever so much better. That sense of buildup and anticipation, the slow unfolding of mystery and the dawning of realization, and the appreciation of that one moment where it all starts to go downhill for our heroes. (That moment covers the first five pages of the first book . . . and is then repeated regularly. Poor John Taylor.)

But I should say more. No one writes like Simon Green. No one. His style is infectious, energetic, over-the-top without the slightest hint of restraint. He writes large on a scale that refuses boundaries, turning even the slightest act into something grand and epic. No one is mediocre in the Nightside, unless they’re a fallen god. Everyone is the whatever-est they can be of whatever qualities they possess or personify. Strongest, fastest, meanest, scariest, best with a sword, you name it. But there’s still always someone better. But in the world Green crafts, this comes off as perfectly normal, just like the character names he lays down on every page with a straight face. Razor Eddy, Annie Abbatoir, Count Video, the Collector, Shotgun Suzie aka Suzie Shooter. Comic book names, and yet they work under the circumstances. (And hands up, everyone who thinks a Nightside comic book would be perfect.) I’ll repeat that. No one writes like Simon Green, so it’s a good thing he writes quickly and fairly prolifically. So read this series. It’s urban fantasy with teeth and claws. If you like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. series, or John Constantine: Hellblazer, this series is for you.

Oh, and if you don’t read it? Shotgun Suzie will break down your door and set your Robert Jordans on fire. Just thought I’d warn you.

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