Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth : A Novel of the Nightside
by Simon R. Green
Review by Drew Bittner
Ace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0441013872
Date: 28 February, 2006 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Well, the apocalypse is here.
John Taylor, the Nightside's greatest private eye, faces his ultimate challenge when his mother Lilith moves to conquer the Nightside. She created the place, after all, and now she wants it back for reasons of her own. The end of the world is now a distinct possibility, his potential futures narrowing down to a holocaust that will consume the Earth. Against her terrifying power, he has only his gift, his wits, a handful of friends... and a whole lot of desperation.
In Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth, Taylor and his partner/true love Shotgun Suzie are back from a trip into the distant past, where they wreaked havoc and uncovered the true origins of the Nightside. Now that they're back, Lilith's campaign has begun. She seeks out her legions of offspring and makes them an offer they can't refuse; thus empowered with an army, she starts to hunt down the movers and shakers of the Nightside, while her legions tear apart the "dark heart of London." Walker, agent of the Authorities who run the Nightside, builds defenses against Lilith, even confronting her directly, but it soon becomes obvious that even his power is no match for hers.
With Suzie, bartender Alex Morrissey and killing god Razor Eddie already on his side, Taylor enlists the help of Tommy Oblivion, the existential detective, and the undead hero called Dead Boy. He tries to recruit more allies, but one by one, Lilith destroys or subverts even the strongest powers. Great and momentous things come to pass, the mightiest legends return and the most hideous weapons are brought to bear--all for naught. Even harrowing trips to a post-apocalyptic future and then to the Last Town on Earth yield no promise of success.
What Taylor hasn't realized is that he may be part of his mother's plans... and only help from a very unexpected quarter, combined with the power of love, may be enough to save the Nightside and Taylor himself.
In what may be his final case, Simon Green takes Taylor to his utmost limits. All of the secrets strewn through the series are finally answered in full, with the dry humor and sardonic wit that is a series hallmark. An ongoing threat from the beginning of the series is resolved, many enemies are faced down for good, and any last illusions are brutally stripped away.
Green allows the characters moments here and there to resolve some personal issues, but never lets things become maudlin or (worse) out of character. Even displays of friendship and affection are studiedly off-the-cuff and casual, belying their depth and intensity. Though it's a tricky piece of writing to pull off successfully, Green succeeds admirably.
The return of "old friends" also affords an opportunity for Green to wrap up loose ends and tie up old business. Several plot threads of long duration are addressed, many of them so subtle that even the most dedicated and sharp-eyed fan might be surprised--and delighted. A few of these appearances are bittersweet, especially appearances by those who were once powerful and now are broken or doomed by Lilith's onslaught. There's also a nicely underplayed tip of the hat to Roger Zelazny, in the form of the membership card to the bar Strangefellows.
This is Green's tour-de-force culmination of the Nightside books. Anyone who's enjoyed the series to date absolutely must read this installment.