Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Last Watch – review

Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

Translator: Andrew Bromfield

First Published: 2006 (Russian edition)

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: The Last Watch is the stunning sequel to the Night Watch Trilogy, following the fortunes of the Others. Indistinguishable from normal people but possessed of supernatural powers, the Others are capable of entering the Twilight, a shadowy world that exists in parallel to our own. Each Other owes allegiance either to the Dark of the Light…

Whilst on holiday in Scotland, visiting a macabre tourist attraction, The Edinburgh Dungeon, a young Russian tourist is murdered. As the police grapple with the fact that the cause of the young man’s death was a massive loss of blood, the Watches know straight away that there is a renegade vampire on the loose. Anton – the hero of the Night Watch trilogy – is detailed to this seemingly mundane investigation, but on arriving in Scotland begins to realise that there is much more to this story than a wildcat vampire and a single murder.

Aided by Thomas, the head of Edinburgh’s Night Watch, Anton investigates and ruminates, and becomes aware that a team of unlicensed Others are hunting for a fabled magical treasure, hidden in the sixth level of Twilight by Merlin himself…

The review: Well, the blurb nearly had it other than the fact that the artefact is believed hidden on the seventh level of Twilight and in scope only covers (quite rightly) the first of the three novellas that make up this fourth volume about the Watches. Previously we have had the Night Watch trilogy, made up of the Night Watch, the Day Watch and The Twilight Watch. This is described less as the fourth book in the series and more as the sequel to the trilogy.

The book roams across the globe with trips from Moscow to Edinburgh and Samarkand in Uzbekistan and centres around – as the blurb says – an attempt by a rogue Agency to locate Merlin’s treasure. That Agency is the Last Watch and is made up of an Inquisitor, a Great Light Other and a great Dark Other. The Great Dark Other is a higher vampire.

We get another interesting physical description of a vampire’s true form, “cheeks eaten away by ulcers, earthen-grey skin; vacant, cloudy-white eyes” and an in-depth description of vampire fang physiology, “The lateral grooves, the tapping point, Dracula’s fissure, the corkscrew twist on entry…” The latter description is, to a degree, kidology as this is not expanded upon but it sounds very scientific.

More interesting was the tie in with the films, Night Watch and Day Watch. Anyone who has read the books thus far and seen the films will know that the films lift aspects of the first two books but go in their own, distinct, story direction that leaves them more based on the books than actual films of the books. You will also know that if a story is referenced from a previous book, the books footnote which volume.

Early on Seymon tells Anton about a dream he had where he nearly ran over Zabulon but he flicked the van with power. This is a scene from Night Watch. Later Egor, a virtually powerless Other in the books who was a Great One, and Anton’s son, in the films tells Anton. “I even dreamed once that you were really my father. And I was going to be a Dark Magician and work in the Day Watch in order to spite you.” The footnote points out that this story was told over the two films. Anton explains that “They say some dreams are an alternative reality breaking into our consciousness. Maybe somewhere, somehow, that’s the way it was.”

I liked this; I liked the idea that Lukyanenko would reference the movies as an alternate reality to his books but almost as a throw away aside, without losing track of his own story and world. The concept appealed to me.

All in all an excellent addition to the world of the Watches, one that I devoured in next to no time. I can also say that the philosophy of the ending is worth getting to. 7.5 out of 10.

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