Paths Not Taken
by Simon R. Green
Review by Drew Bittner
Ace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0441013198
Date: 30 August, 2005 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Taylor has just recently learned that his mother is Lilith, Adam's first wife and legendary mother of monsters. He's also learned that she intends to destroy the Nightside, a place she created a very long time ago, because it no longer reflects her intentions. If she does this, the world will be destroyed in a battle between her and Taylor. Taylor decides to go to that moment of creation to see if he can learn her weaknesses, in order to prevent that horrific future from coming to pass.
First confronted with the baffling case of Eamonn Mitchell, an obscure middle-manager beset by Eamonns from alternate timelines, Taylor realizes that his enemies (now including the Nightside's mysterious Authorities) are trying to distract him. It doesn't take long to resolve Mitchell's problem?a feat that involves outsmarting two stone statues, battling a werewolf, and using probability magic to undo a ruthless CEO?so that Taylor, the existentialist detective Tommy Oblivion and bounty hunter Suzie Shooter can dive into the past.
They gain help from Old Father Time, but the first step in their journey takes them only to the sixth century AD. Camelot has just fallen and Merlin is seriously upset?and drinking heavily. Realizing that the half-demon wizard is unlikely to help of his own free will (as well as being infatuated with his new girlfriend, Nimue), Taylor conceives a desperate plan to go further back in time. His fixation on stopping his mother costs Suzie dearly, kills a potential ally and deprives him of Tommy's help. Nevertheless, he manages to go back to the first century AD, where he angers a Roman god, (barely) survives a walk in the woods, and gets help from the Nightside's newly appointed overseer. This hurls them back in time to a fateful encounter with Lilith, the newly-created Nightside, an army of monsters, and more.
Ah well, some cases are harder than others.
Green's Nightside novels continue to build, one to the next, in a series that will find culmination somewhere down the road. Mysteries woven into previous adventures are resolved?often in unexpected ways?and the themes of fate and predestination weigh ever more heavily on Taylor, as all of his choices risk making that apocalyptic future more likely. (One particular aspect of this hellish future haunts him especially in this story.)
Fascinating new players are introduced, such as Old Father Time and Count Video, while long-time supporting characters like Shotgun Suzie (aka Suzie Shooter) reveal surprising new depths. (Who knew a killer like Suzie watched the History Channel?) A monster overcome in a previous story is created in this one, while an enemy is shown at the height of his power and then overthrown through his own arrogance. And Taylor and Suzie start to draw closer together, as their relationship enters a new phase.
Although Taylor remains a sardonic iconoclast, he has become a fanatic about saving the future. He doesn't see how this shapes his vision of his possibilities, which says a great deal for how Green constructs his world and his characters both. Fanaticism is a double-edged sword and the costs of his personal crusade are growing?his friends are hurt and his list of enemies grows longer.
Paths Not Taken may be the point of no return for Taylor. After this, there's only pain and suffering ahead, more than he's ever known. But that's the nature of heroism?to forge ahead regardless of the personal cost, to serve the greater good. Hopefully, he'll find a way to foil Fate. I know I'll be reading to find out how he does it.