Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Review: Nightlife by Rob Thurman

While browsing around the Borders in Ramsey the other day I stumbled across just such a book, and so I read through the beginning of the book. Ms Thurman, you had me rooted to the spot. I immediately bought all three of the current series (Nightlife, Moonlight, and Madhouse), and I did not even make it to my car when a friend of mine pilfered book one from my Borders bag. Considering that I am the literary version of a crack dealer in our group, I graciously allowed my friend Ann Marie to steal book one and read it ahead of me. First taste is free and all that.

So, you are asking, why all the excitement? Well, it is no mystery that there is a lot of modern fantasy going around night now. It started with characters like Anita Blake and expanded with the success of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series which had both great books and TV shows. Now, the publishers cannot put out enough of these kinds of books. Authors like Simon Green are at the top of their game with this style, and newcomers like Mark delFranco are wow-ing readers across the board, but how do you separate the gold from the dross in this ever-expanding genre? Reviews, help, but it is more trial and error than anything else.

Now, on to why this book and series is so spectacular. Nightlife is the story of two half-brothers, Caliban and Niko, who are on the run and hiding out in New York. Sons of a gypsy fortune-teller, none know who Niko's father is, but Caliban's father is a monster. Not a John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy type monster, but a fangs, claws, and glowing red eyes kind of monster. A monster who wants his son for some reason known only to him. Enough about the set-up, though, let's get to the meat of the matter.

Nightlife is a great character study, and a wonderful introduction to the world that Rob Thurman is working in. Strangely, for a first book, Nightlife seems more like a second book, concentrating on character and story development more than the formulaic origin story that most first books tend to fall back on. Sure, the origin story is in there, but it is carefully woven into the narrative in flashbacks, and does not take up any significant part of the book. The main thrust of the story strikes directly into the relationship of the two brothers, and highlights all of their worst fears and horrors. The ensemble cast of Cal, Niko, and their new friend Robin Goodfellow (who remains my personal favorite) try desperately to do their parts in a story that is lager than any one of them. The fact that they all undergo massive changes and character development in the course of this book is a testament to the amazing work that Thurman is putting out.

If you are looking for style, substance, relatable characters, and horrifying scenes, then this is your one stop smorgasbord.

THAC0: 3

*Note: I am grading things based on the old system of 'To Hit Armor Class 0' or THAC0. The idea is that the lower the number, the better this is at being an actual hit in terms of game mechanics. In terms of my grade, the THAC0 is the number I believe, on a scale of 1-20, that I think this will be a hit with you, the reader. 1 means that I think that pretty much everyone will love this book/movie/show and 20 means that almost nobody will like it.

1 comment:

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