The Unnatural Inquirer: Formula has become stale and repetitive

Simon R. Green Nightside: Something from the Nightside, Agents of Light and Darkness, Nightingale's Lament, Hex and the City, Paths Not Taken, Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth, Hell to Pay, The Unnatural InquirerThe Unnatural Inquirer by Simon R. GreenThe Unnatural Inquirer by Simon R. Green

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.


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KAT HOOPER is a professor at the University of North Florida where she teaches neuroscience, psychology, and research methods courses. She occasionally gets paid to review scientific textbooks, but reviewing speculative fiction is much more fun. Kat lives with her husband and their children in Jacksonville Florida.

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4 comments

  1. Excellent review, and it nails what made me stop reading this series after a while. I love the inventiveness, but the worldbuilding is, well, not terrible, but yeah, thin. What irked me most would be when a character appears on the scene to talk to Taylor, and then Taylor narrates (out loud!) several paragraphs of exposition about the person to either himself or a clueless companion…while the person in question is apparently standing there, staring at him.

    • Thanks, JR! Yeah, these could be so much better… I have the rest of the books, so I’ll probably read them just because we want the reviews on the site, but my reviews will probably all be saying the same thing (they will probably be as stale and repetitive as the books are!).

      Or maybe not. Maybe it will get better.

  2. Sorry, Kat, but I don’t think so. I thought The Bride Wore Black was fun (last book in this series) but they really are one-note books, once we get past the Lilith War.

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  1. The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny: This series has lost it | Fantasy Literature: Fantasy and Science Fiction Book and Audiobook Reviews - […] used before. Even the same words! For details, please see my reviews of the previous two novels, The Unnatural …

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