Sunday, March 02, 2008
I’ve started reading THE NIGHT WATCH, by Sergei Lukyanenko, which was brought to my attention by a reader called Sheana Campbell. I’d seen the film but not read the books, which I’m enjoying, particularly for the sub-zero, post-Soviet, gritty, urban Russian setting. It’s like a noir police procedural, or a spy story maybe, complete with angst-ridden, morally compromised protagonist. But the story centres on a version of reality where the supernatural and the gothic exist alongside the human world. A quote on the front cover describes THE NIGHT WATCH as “J.K. Rowling, Russian style.” This could be misleading. It’s true that, like Rowling’s work, Lukyanenko’s books have become something of a phenomenon, and have sold in their millions, especially in his native Russia. Stylistically, however, the two writers are poles apart. Lukyanenko seems to take crime fiction and cold war thrillers as a starting point, and writes with what is – to Western eyes at least– a unique geographic perspective. By contrast, the Harry Potter books spring from the tradition of British boarding school stories written for children in the first half of the twentieth century. Where they do have common ground – in the notion of a supernatural world existing in tandem with the natural – it’s already such a broad arena that it is easily capable of including a great variety of completely different stories within its bounds.
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