Book Review – Night Shadow by B.K. Bass

2019 was the last time the world was normal. Our president was loud-mouthed idiot, but we’d learned to make fun of him, everyone was still working in offices, and we didn’t have to wear masks everywhere or listen to mouth-breathers explain how vaccines turned us into mindless robots with 5g connectivity. Covid was lurking, but it was still in the shadows, and we all had heady expectations of 2020 being a great year instead of the massive cluster-fuck it turned out to be.

2019 was also the year I got to read B.K. Bass’s first entry in his Night Trilogy – Night Shift. It was a novella focused on taking a traditional hard-boiled detective and dropping him into a cyberpunk reality with all the fun gritty nastiness one would expect from such a mashup. Early 2020 saw the release of part two – Night Life – where the antes were upped and nastiness got, uh, nastinesser. Nastierness. Let’s just call it a good time in a city that likes to eat people.

Now 2021 is grinding to a halt and sharpening its claws for one last dig into our throats, but at least we’ve got the conclusion of Bass’s trilogy – Night Shadow.

Night Shadow finishes the adventures of Harold Jacobson, now on the run and hiding out while he plots his revenge. The world has other plans for him, though, and Harold finds himself stuck in the middle of fiery revolution that will leave the city quietly sobbing to itself in the corner. Being the badass that he is, ol’ Harold will find a way to use the revolt to his own gains.

While the first two books in the series focused on corruption growing like a cancer in the shadows, Night Shadow lets the cancer loose on an unsuspecting city. My guess would be Night Shadow was heavily influenced by the events of summer 2020 (see, there was a reason I was talking about last year). 2020 was the year the United States exploded. Too much pressure, too much uncertainty, and way too much fear and loathing. Bass manages to capture that powder keg atmosphere in Night Shadow and isn’t afraid to let it loose.

It could be argued that there’s a certain meta-ness to the story. A hint that while the revolution is of the people and for the people, there are plenty of folks out there who, for better or worse, have no qualms about using the chaos to their ends. The final entry in the Night trilogy is bigger and badder than the first two and takes us in an unexpected direction. It still feels like part of the trilogy, though, and that’s no mean feat to pull off.

Taken as a collection, it could be argued that there was a certain prescience in the trilogy. All the corruption and violence of the first two books only served to increase the pressure until an explosion was inevitable. The ethical quandaries of exploiting the explosion aside, the only question left to ask is whether Harold did the right thing for all the wrong reasons or the wrong thing for all the right reasons.

And questions like that are what cyberpunk/detective-noir mashups are all about.

New Angeles is in turmoil.

The government, the corporations, and the organized crime families have the city in an iron grip. As that grip tightens, the people decide they will not take it anymore. When the citizens rise up and the city burns, Harold sees an opportunity to exploit the chaos.

But is his crusade one of justice, or vengeance?

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Book Review: In Search Of A Revolution by Christoph Fischer

Your interesting but useless bit of trivia for the evening: My great grandparents on my father’s side were Finns.  I actually got to meet my great grandmother many times.  By the time I was 5 or 6 she was in her late 80s and I’d go visit her when I went to see my grandparents in the summers.  She was an industrious woman and every time I saw her she had a laundry basket of clothes for me that she’d made by hand.  Somehow or another she always got the sizes perfect even though she only saw me once a year.

Apparently I still have relatives over there, though I’ve never met them.

Finland has been in life since I was born, so when I saw Christoph’s book about Finland in the early 1900s I knew I had to read it.  Someday I hope to get to the old country and see what it’s really like over there.

The book in question is In Search Of A Revolution and uses the Finnish Civil War and World War II as backdrops for three characters struggling to find and understand their own place in the world.  In a way, the revolution and World War II mirror the characters’ own internal revolutions and that is really the heart of the book.  There’s some action in In Search Of A Revolution, but it’s not a war book.  There’s not much glory in war as portrayed by Christoph Fischer so don’t go into it thinking this is a book where the good guys blow up the bad guys.

Christoph can sum up his novel much better than I can

Christoph can sum up his novel much better than I can

Christoph weaves the Finnish Civil War and World War II as much more complicated things than a simple case of these are good guys and these are bad guys.  The characters of the novel are similarly more complicated and nuanced.  Much like most of us, Zaccharias, Ansgar, and Raisa are far from being perfect people and their interactions (Zaccharias and Ansgar have very different political leanings) mirror the complicated structures of the background politics.

Everyone who reads a book will take away something different, especially if a book is deep enough to allow for enough layers to be exposed.

What was particularly interesting to me was looking at the philosophies of the characters through my American eyes.  The Communist in the story (Zaccharias) has a firm belief that everyone should be able to have a say in government.  Ansgar feels that’s a bad idea because the common people aren’t really capable of making those decisions because they don’t have the depth of understanding necessary for choosing their destinies.  Likewise when World War II breaks out and the characters debate siding with Hitler over Stalin.

It’s kind of hard to find the lesser of two evils between those two.

In final analysis, In Search of a Revolution is about three people trying to come to grips with their own ideas of how the world should work versus the way the world does work.  It’s about alliances of necessity.  It’s about finding a way when the way isn’t obvious, coming to the stark realization that what we want things to be aren’t always the way things are, and the realization that that’s not a bad thing.

This is a good book by a good author who understands how to interwine the large events of nations of millions with the smaller events of a nation of three (with an add-onn fourth later on).

I love this cover.  It's great.

I love this cover. It’s great.

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