Thursday, September 10, 2009

Super-Powered Prose: Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Some people are probably familiar with the movie version of Night Watch, one of the best foreign films to appear in the last few years. But before it was turned in to a fine film by Timur Bekmambetov, it was equally entertaining in its original form: as a novel by Russian fiction writer Sergei Lukyanenko.

The premise of Night Watch is straight-forward: two secret societies exist unseen to human eyes. Locked in constant conflict, the sides of Light and Dark now sit in a truce to keep their war from destroying everything. The light sorcerers belong to the Night Watch and monitor the forces of the dark, which cover everything from sorcerers to vampires. The dark in turn have the Day Watch, which serve as an answer to the light. This leads to multiple political machinations. And these machinations unwitting pull several people, including Anton, our narrator.

I do not want to go in to plot points for those unfamiliar with the work, because I feel Night Watch in both its forms deserves a much large audience. But I will say that what at first seems like another supernatural thriller quickly morphs in to a battle of right and wrong played out by dozens of super-powered beings. I have long listed the movie as one of my favorite pieces of super-powered film-making. The novel equals, maybe exceeds it, as a look at a real world populated by metahumans.

Clocking in at well over four hundred pages, Night Watch the novel is a much deeper experience than the movie. If you have seen the film and wondered about the book, go out and read it. If you are unfamiliar with either work, go check out the book for a great combination of the supernatural and the super-powered. And if you’re worried seeing a Russian name in the author slot, don’t be. Andrew Bromfield gives the book an excellent translation. He keeps the depth the original novel clearly possesses while making sure it is readable as a modern American novel.

Night Watch is a novel not to miss. Highly Recommended.

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