Last Watch

Reviewer: Jake Beal

Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

Published: 2009

Reviewed: 2009-08-10

Publisher: Miramax

Sometimes I worry that I'm just getting too jaded and picky about the
books that I read, that writing these reviews might be polluting my
ability to just plain enjoy fiction. I was worrying about that
recently, as might be unsurprising if you've read my past two reviews.
But then I pick up a book that's actually really good, and my doubts
simply dissolve. Most recently, Mr. Lukyanenko's excellent novel,
"Last Watch" has restored my faith.

This is the fourth in the series beginning with "Night Watch," and you
really must not read it before you read the other three. Not only are
they excellent, but "Last Watch" builds upon all of them---every
single one---and would spoil them all for you. That said, if you've
read the other three, you probably already know that you will enjoy
"Last Watch" and don't need my recommendation, other than to note that
Mr. Lukyanenko has not lost his touch and has not grown stale. The
promises are fulfilled, and perhaps there will be another book, but
perhaps there will not.

So let me just pen a few lines to explain how Mr. Lukyanenko wins my
heart once again. More than anything else, I would have to say the
answer is subtlety. Subtlety in handling character: we see so much
depth from so little in the desire of a character to go to Scotland,
and how he chooses to phrase it. Subtlety in handling setting: the
rules of magic are explained to us bit by bit, but only as we need to
know them, and each time not so much introducing something new as
fleshing out something previously hinted at. Subtlety in handling
plot: just because a character knows something doesn't mean that they
will tell us, and there are so many ways the plot might turn that I,
at least, never know how it will resolve until we get there. Subtlety
in handling importance: when an immense revelation is made or a major
event happens, it is almost brushed aside, bits shown but only the
barest edges. For in the end, life goes on, and what is important is
the decision of how to go home when the sound and fury have subsided.

Mr. Lukyanenko, I salute you once again, and your translator for
maintaining the poetry of the prose across languages. More than
anything else, though, I was delighted by the sideways bits of
acknowledgement that the movies had occurred, and that they were
nothing like the books. Why should it charm me so much to hear Semyon
describe a dream of that bizarre scene with Zabulon in the beginning
of the "Night Watch" movie? I do not know, but it truly does, and
indicates to me an author whose fame has not yet come to harm him.
Keep up the good work.