The Sixth Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (2012 – en/2013) (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 final installment in the Watch Series. In this one, Anton’s daughter Nadya is threatened at her school, where two magicians sweep through with a power completely beyond what each has on his own. The prophets have foretold attacks of this sort and predict the end of the world in five days’ time.
We learn more about the ancient order of the vampires—the world’s supposed first children. The day and night watch of Moscow are basically working together, attending the high councils of the vampires and witches as they each seek to elect a member to be part of the Sixth Watch. There are also the form-takers and the Foundation. All representatives of the watch will likely die when the council convenes.
The watch is there to combat the Twilight itself, which is embodied in a human-like figure. In the end, it is Anton who thwarts the twilight and restores order and balance.
“Or take the healers’ recipes. Light magic, no horror involved . . . as a general rule. Looking at the popular recipe for a migraine elixir, we discover that five of the seven ingredients are not written down, but are denoted by smells! That is, you have to sniff the pages of the book! And yes, you’re quite right, if you write in “vanilla,” “chestnut honey,” or “rye bread” instead of including the smells, the elixir won’t work. The healer has to sniff the ingredients as he makes up the recipe, even “powdered chalk,” which doesn’t smell of anything much. Even “spring water,” which doesn’t have any kind of odor at all.”
“In a modern city you don’t often come across anyone running. People often plod slowly past the shop windows. When they walk, it’s always fast. But running . . . There are two scenarios for that: a short sprint to the bus stop, hoping to catch a bus that’s already leaving, and the daily spurt of some enthusiastic follower of a healthy lifestyle—somewhere in a park or close to one—wearing a natty tracksuit with headphones jammed into their ears. Anyone running, who isn’t running to a bus stop or wearing a tracksuit, automatically arouses suspicion.”
“And those who can’t are dealing with their usual business. Their own bread, their own melody, their own pickpockets. Their own foolish little investigation. Even if the apocalypse is upon us. Because if it doesn’t happen, the grain must not rot in the ground, and the song must still be sung. And the thief must sit in jail. And abuses of office must be investigated.””
““But where is it any better? Russian pigheadedness and drunkenness? American chauvinism and hypocrisy? European self-righteousness? Asiatic cruelty?” “They’re all people,” I said. “And are we any better?” asked the witch. “Our side or your side . . . Perhaps we should just let it happen, eh?” I turned my eyes toward the half-open door of the sleeping room, where the children were lying in their beds. Little arms and legs dangling out from under blankets, socks and sandals lying on the floor. “Are they guilty too?” I asked. “Do they have to die too?” “Everyone has to die sometime,” the witch replied. “They might not be guilty of anything, but that’s only for now . . . It will all happen sooner or later. A hundred years ago I’d definitely have turned a couple of them into piglets, to keep them out of mischief.””
““Nadenka, don’t ever think you’re more cunning than your parents are. I was a little girl too, and I remember very well all the thoughts you have swarming around in your head right now. And believe me, not many of them are clever ones.””
““I feel very sorry for the pure, organic beefcake, the passionate Caucasian, and the innocent blond boy,” I said. “But in a few days all the beefcakes, Caucasians, and blond-haired boys in the world could die. And if the death of three innocents will save the world, then so be it.” “So you’re no longer trying to solve the problem of a child’s tears?” Zabulon asked merrily, slumping back in his chair. “So now you’re looking at the problem of Omelas?””
““You have a quarter of an hour,” said the witch. “You can have a glass of beer or wine in the bar. Or vodka, if you like. What do you usually drink in the evenings?” “No, I can’t have vodka, I promised my bear that I wouldn’t drink any without him,””
““You see, Anton, we witches are rather superstitious. So we’ve been holding the six hundred and sixty-fifth session of our Conclave for almost a century now. It has become a tradition.” “An interesting solution,” I said. “That’s what I think too,” the witch replied without a trace of irony. “After all, the most important things in life are peace of mind and a positive attitude.””
“I sighed, and stepped toward the Tiger. “Just as I thought,” he remarked sadly. “Gorodetsky, why don’t you like simple solutions?” “They usually have complicated consequences,” I replied.”
“The Two-in-One is the great balancer, the eraser, the purger. If human civilization goes off the rails, he comes and destroys it. He reduces life to the most basic, banal truths. Eating, drinking, killing, reproducing. That’s what the Two-in-One does, he simplifies.””
““What’s so strange about that?” Zabulon exclaimed gleefully. “It’s not evil to smack your neighbor over the head with a club, make him work in your field, and make his wife warm your bed. That’s normal, natural behavior. Basic practicality. Animals are also beyond good and evil—when a wolf kills a hare, it doesn’t feel any hatred. Evil is when you convince your neighbor that he ought to work in your field, give his wife to you, and sing your praises at the same time.””
“THE DAY WATCH OFFICE WAS EMPTY. ZABULON HAD SENT ALL his colleagues home, even the operational duty officers, before we appeared. They wouldn’t have been a help in any case. So the tea and sandwiches were brought by Sveta and Nadya.”
Because of course they were
““Yes it does!” Nadya protested. “The kids asked me in school: ‘Gorodetsky, are you a Jew?’ And I said there weren’t any Jews in my family. But there are. I lied to them all!””
A couple of times this has happened. The anti-semitism is a bit thicker than seems appropriate for the context.