Tales from the Nightside by Simon R. Green
This is a collection of Green’s Nightside short stories, including what the cover says is a new novella, just for this collection. I’ll tell you right now that they are up to the usual Green standard, which is to say interesting, but of varying quality.
“The Nightside, Needless To Say” features Larry Oblivion, Private Eye. Larry wakes up and doesn’t know where he is, or when and how he got there. But he does know one thing (or at least, it’s the first thing he finds out): he’s dead. He can’t remember who killed him, or how and why he’s still walking around. He can’t get his life back, but maybe he can get revenge . . .
“Razor Eddie’s Big Night Out” stars, of course, Razor Eddie, the Punk God of the Razor. There is trouble on the street of the Gods, so an old friend, one who knew Eddie when, comes looking for him. To set things right. Or at least as right as they can be, in the Nightside.
“Lucy, At Christmastime” has Leo Morn, professional bad boy, remembering Lucy, his first. His first what, though? Might be wiser not to ask. Anyway, Leo always spends Christmas with Lucy.
“Appetite for Murder” has Sam Warren, the Nightside’s first detective, and Ms. Fate, masked heroine and friend to Warren, tracking down a serial killer who takes body parts and who, after doing his first kill (a demigod descended from Heracles) by knife has switched to tearing the victims apart. Who is the killer? Why have they chosen the victims they did? Will this be Sam Warren’s last case? Does Ms. Fate have a secret deeper than anyone knows?
“The Difference a Day Makes” I’ve read before, in another collection. It has Dead Boy and John Taylor helping a woman find out what happened in the 24 hours she has forgotten.
“Some Of These Cons Go Way Back” has Harry Fabulous, con-man pretending to be drug dealer, falling in love . . . to his despair.
“The Spirit of the Thing” has John Taylor, during a period in which he’s hard up for money, doing some owrk for the scummy owner of the scummy bar called “The Jolly Cripple”. It’s something John soon regrets, but he isn’t the only one . . .
“Hungry Heart” has John being hired by a witch whose ex-over has stolen her heart–literally. Of course, very little is as it seems in the Nightside. This is, perhaps not surprisingly, a take on the Maltese Falcon (John had to do one sooner or later).
“How Do You Feel” is a Dead Boy story. Dead Boy was murdered in the Nightside, came back for revenge, and has been hanging around ever since. But one night in Strangefellows, Walker tells him that he missed someone. Someone ordered his death. If he wants to know why, he can go ask them.
In “The Big Game”, John Taylor is hired by the Doorman of the Adventurer’s Club to find the missing adventurers and heroes who make up the place. All of them are gone. But where? And why? Of all the stories in the volume, this is the longest, and also the least. Falling into that peculiar space called “novella”, it’s not tight enough to make a good short story and not deep enough to make a good novel. There are good novellas out there, but this one is a failure. Pity it’s the last story in the book.
Overall, these are Green’s usual fare. If you like what he does, you’ll like them. If not, you’re better off skipping them. If you haven’t read Green, don’t start here: start with Something From the Nightside for a sense of his urban fantasy stuff in general and the Nightside in particular, or Swords of Haven for the heroic fantasy stuff. Which makes this only mildly recommended.
How To Lose A War At Sea: foolish plans and great naval blunders edited by Bill Fawcett
A collection of short, non-fiction pieces on the general theme of naval warfare. While the title suggests loss is the focus, all wars and battles have two sides and you can’t write about the one without mentioning the other. These range from the Chesapeake, 1781 (titled “America’s Greatest Naval Victory?”) up to Operation Morvarid, in 1980, during the Iran-Iraq war. Trafalgar is in there, of course, as is Jutland and of course the entire Pacific war in WWII (how the Japanese went from having one of the finest naval air fleets in the world to, well, what they had at the end).
As ever, when you have a bunch of different writers working on different pieces on a vague theme, you have writing of variable quality, but a good editor can make up for that and Fawcett seems to have done a decent job Overall these are good pieces and if you have any interest in the topic this makes good, light reading before falling asleep or while in the washroom.