THE NIGHT WATCH
Ace Books / 338 pages / 31 October 1997
Human beings can get used to anything. In the world of The Night Watch, magic is a fact of life, and gods, demons, and ghosts abound. In the hands of a hack, this would all seem absurd; in the skilled hands of Sean Stewart, it all makes perfect sense. Just another day in the last half of the twenty-first century.
What happened to our own century, our own civilisation? Gone. Just about everything you and I expect of life has been swept away by the influx of magic and the Dreaming. Huge population centres are a thing of ancient history; the few cities that still exist do so live with a siege mentality. Only two great tribes remain to rule North America.
Southside banished magic and guards the Great Plains with the wizardry of technology. Chinatown maintains the diminished area of Vancouver, surrounded by danger that only the Southsiders can protect them against.
A worse allegiance could scarcely be imagined.
In the midst of this escalating chaos, the powerful and the powerless struggle to find a degree of happiness, or, at the very least, stay alive. With gods appearing regularly and mutants pouring forth from the abandoned areas and a sentient forest lying in wait, just living may be too much to ask. Living without fear is certainly beyond the capabilities of most of the survivors.
And, despite all the mysticism and alien nature of the world of 2074, it is the human spirit that fascinates. As in Mockingbird and Clouds End, and all of Stewart’s novels, the people of the strange new world are the focus. Different from us, but still unquestionably of us, Stewart’s characters live and breathe and hurt on these pages. If their ghosts are easier to see, ours hold to the last shreds of life just as fiercely.
The Night Watch is a time and place we have all experienced, in our own ways. This magic-filled world could be around us now. Though we don’t see it as clearly, we know it is there. And, we know the same problems that haunt us now would find us after the Dreaming.
Sean Stewart knows these things, as he knows people and emotions and fears. But, above all, he knows writing. His magic is in every carefully laid word and nurtured character. And no one lets that magic flow as he does.