Night Watch

I don’t normally go for science fiction, but Night Watch came highly recommended. Anton Sevilla, my former philosophy professor, said I might enjoy its exploration of good-versus-evil since I really liked Nikolai Berdyaev’s The Destiny of Man. This got me excited; I had never heard of Sergei Lukyanenko before. Luckily my friend Danica has all four books in the series.

Night Watch weaves together two worlds: the everyday reality we know, and the one inhabited by Others: vampires, magicians, shape shifters. Belonging to either Darkness or Light, these Others have waged war against each other for centuries, until a peace treaty forced them to end the conflict. Post-treaty, the two sides maintain a precarious balance of power, establishing separate Watches to ascertain that neither side oversteps its allotted boundaries. The first book follows Anton, a Light magician who stumbles upon a young woman carrying a powerful curse and finds it up to him to dispel the hex before it destroys Moscow.

Fast-paced, like I haven’t read in a long time: these were my first notes on this novel. As a thriller, Night Watch does not disappoint. Every page is packed with action and mystery. Unexplained occurrences follow one another in quick succession, leaving it up to Anton (and the reader) to imagine how they fit into the larger scheme of things. Plot holes aside, Lukyanenko shows a certain flair for plotting, but I felt a lack of deliberation in his narration. Frequently I had to filter through bits of superfluous information that weren’t even red herrings; simply unnecessary. I started this book with the most promising of beginnings, but it falls a bit short of my expectations. The overall narrative is quite good, but I did not find the second story convincing enough. (At one point I wanted to scream at Anton, tell him what to do.)

Because it had been recommended to me as such, I looked for the philosophy in Night Watch from page one. I found it in the third story (the best one), where the spheres of good and evil, personal and public, collide most intensely. In addition, I also recognized some philosophy in the concept of Twilight: it reminded me of Levinas’ il y a. But despite this I will have to pass on the rest of the series. Night Watch didn’t hook me enough to merit that kind of commitment.

‘The common good and the individual good rarely coincide.’

…some truths are probably worse than lies.

In war the most dangerous thing is to understand the enemy. To understand is to forgive.

There are always some things that have to be left unsaid.


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