The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (1998 – en/2006) (read in 2018)
Published by marco on
Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an interest in this book, then I’m happy for you.
This is the first novel in what would end up being a six-book series, set in the real world with the Twilight as a backdrop. The world is the same as the one we know, but some people are not humans, but Others. These Others are divided (unevenly) into Dark and Light Ones. This book introduces characters that would be in all of the books, but focuses on the development of Anton Gorodetsky, a low-level Light Other who works in the Night Watch. The Night Watch works at night and keeps an eye on the Dark Others. The Day Watch works during the day and keeps an eye on the Light Others.
The Twilight is another layer of reality to which Others have access, but humans do not. It is from here that Others draw their power to perform magic. It’s a very interesting mythology, equal to the Harry Potter world, I think, with a bit more for adults than the earlier books in that series.
In this book, Lukyanenko develops Anton as well as Sveltana (a Great Enchantress) and Egor (a potential Mirror) and Maxim (an eventual Inquisitor) as well as introducing Boris Ignatievich, or Gesar, the oldest and most powerful of the Light Ones in the Moscow Night Watch.
“The car hurtled through the night, as if it were trying to overtake the beams of its own headlights.”
“You know, they’ve started selling fake New Year Tree decorations in Moscow. They look just like the real thing, but they don’t bring people any joy at all.” She told the short joke with an absolutely straight face, without even changing her tone of voice.”
“He could tell himself a thousand times over that no arguments and disputes between states had anything to do with the concerns of the Light and the Darkness. He could accept that in a war this airman-magician was far more likely not to aim his bombs at civilians. But even so . . . Just how could he manage to go out on bombing raids and drop his explosives on people’s heads, and still remain a Light One? Because he was a Light One, no doubt about that! But he almost certainly had human lives on his conscience. How did he manage not to fall back into the Twilight? What incredible faith he must have in his own righteousness, to be able to combine active military service and the cause of the Light.”
“And what if I had defied all the stipulations of the Treaty and made that intervention in secret? A brief gesture of the hand . . . And then what? There wasn’t any work in the village. And nobody in the city wanted Kolya, a former collective farm mechanic. Kolya didn’t have any money to start “his own business.” He couldn’t even buy a piglet. So he’d go off again to look for moonshine, getting by on money from odd jobs, and working off his anger on his wife, who drank as much as he did and was just as weary of everything. It wasn’t the man I needed to heal—it was the entire planet Earth. Or at least this particular sixth part of the planet Earth. The part with the proud name of Russia.”
“It all sounded pretty strange. In my own mind, I’d always thought of Others as individuals with strongly developed magical abilities. But the point of view expressed here was the exact opposite of that. In fact the following amusing comparison was used as an example: Say the temperature throughout the entire world is 97.7˚F. Then most people, with a body temperature higher than that, will radiate heat outward and “warm nature.” But the small number of people who for some reason have a body temperature lower than 97.7˚F will start taking in heat. And since they receive a constant influx of Power, they will be able to make use of it, while people with far warmer temperatures carry on aimlessly “heating nature.””
“There’ll never be a time when all people become Others. We’ll never reveal ourselves to them. And we’ll never allow people to build a more or less decent society. Capitalism, communism . . . that’s not the point. The only world that will ever suit us is one in which people are preoccupied with the size of the trough and the quality of hay. Because the moment they lift their heads out of the trough, look around and see us, we’ll be finished.””