John Taylor has been hired by The Unnatural Inquirer, the gossip magazine of the Nightside, to find a stolen DVD that allegedly contains a recording of a transmission from the afterlife. His investigation will take him all over the Nightside where we’ll encounter old and new friends (and enemies).
The Unnatural Inquirer is the eighth book in Simon R. Green’s NIGHTSIDE series. If you’ve read all the previous books, you know what to expect here and, depending on your tastes, that’s either a good or a bad thing. If you just want to hang out with John Taylor and his friends in the Nightside, The Unnatural Inquirer will probably please you. It’s got everything we expect from a NIGHTSIDE book — a fast-moving romp through a decadent parallel world with some of the strangest people and creatures you’ll ever meet.
Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned in my reviews of the past few books, this formula has become stale and repetitive and I’d say it’s intolerably so in this novel. Again, something is interfering with John Taylor’s power so that he’s forced to do old-fashioned detective work rather than use his magic to solve the crime. Again, the power comes back when the plot needs it to. By the way, I’m still confused by John’s magic. Everyone is afraid of him because he’s the most powerful entity in the Nightside, yet the way he uses his magic seems arbitrary. Why can he sometimes do amazing world-bending things with his power, but other times he seems to forget he has any?
Again, we go to new places and meet new characters and organizations who are so important or powerful in the Nightside that we should have heard of them before now. In every book we meet a character (a “Major Player”) like this. In The Unnatural Inquirer it’s the Removal Man — a man that everyone is afraid of because he can remove someone from the world with just a thought. Yet we’ve never heard of him before now. And why have we never heard of The Unnatural Inquirer, a magazine that’s very influential in the Nightside? The fact that we haven’t indicates that Green is making it all up as he goes along. That’s fine, but it makes his world feel very thin. It’s all quite inventive — Green frequently gives us new lists of all the weird people who exist, and weird stuff that happens, in the Nightside — but it’s paper thin. He may describe ten characters in thirty seconds and we’ll chuckle and think “that’s cool,” but we’ll never hear of them again.
Again, Green uses the same wording over and over and I can even predict some of the things he’s going to say (“I opened my eye, my private eye… and it was the easiest thing in the world to…”). This is perhaps what bothers me most — the fact that so much of the wording is the same in every book.
I keep reading NIGHTSIDE because I purchased all the books on audio when they were on a sale at Audible. The narrator, Marc Vietor, is wonderful and I don’t regret reading them — they’re entertaining — but Green seems creative enough that they could be so much better.