Simon R. Green’s The Dark Side of The Road

1559BD01-7D02-4294-A867-D2B72EBF28FCThe first thing you need to know is that all of the fiction that Green has done over the past several decades is interconnected, with shared characters and settings. Some of the series are deeply interwoven, some connected just enough that you know that they are. This series involving Ishmael Jones is one of the latter. Indeed, except for the occasional infodump that one of the characters does, it really doesn’t show that it’s part of his extended universe at all.

Ishmael Jones is an alien that crash landed on Earth some sixty years ago and whose ship transformed him into perfect copy of a human being right down to genetic code. It also removed all of his previous memories so he has no idea who he was. He’s human — though much stronger and faster, and apparently immortal, but he thinks of himself as human, as he’s never known anything else. (No, don’t think too deeply about how he knows that he was transformed.) And so sixty years later, he’s working for The Organisation, one of those secret groups that may or may not be part of the British government, like Torchwood in the Doctor Who universe, and it serves much of the same function — pushing back against things from the dark side of reality.

The Ishmael Jones series is one of Green’s three ongoing series, as he ended both his Nightside and Secret Histories series over the past few years, wrapping both up in Night Fall (which I really need to write up. I’ve mixed feeling about it as a finale, which is why I haven’t so far.)

The Dark Side of the Road, which kicks off the series, now seven volumes that have been published though Green I am told has now written twelve so far (BLISS!), sets the general premise up. Jones is someone who can’t afford to be noticed, someone who lives under the radar, a grey man doing those jobs that keep us safe from those things that we’re best off not knowing about. If you looked at him on a city street, you’d most likely just glance away.

And now The Colonel, his contact at The Organisation, has invited Ishmael and his family for Christmas, but Ishmael arrives at the grand but isolated Belcourt Manor in the midst of a blizzard to find that the Colonel has mysteriously disappeared. Over the course of the next few days, almost everyone in the House will die under mysterious and frankly violent circumstances.

The story here of Ishmael Jones, the not human Very Secret Agent Solves Weird Problems is a bit science fiction, and with more than a dash of  horror, and a lot of fantasy. And it’s a mystery as well, though I don’t think that it’s really possible for the reader to solve the question of who the murderer is as Green doesn’t really play fair on the matter. Let’s just say that it’s a lot of fun and the first person narrative by Jones is highly entertaining, with the tone here similar in tone to his Ghost Finders series which I liked a lot.

(Tantor Audio, 2015)

Cat Eldridge

I'm the publisher of Green Man Review and Sleeping Hedgehog. My current reading is Arkady Martine's A Desolation Called Peace, Ailette De Bodard’s Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight, and Simon R. Green’s The Best Thing You Can Steal. I’m listening to Becky Chamber’s The Galaxy, and The Ground Beneath. My music listening as always leans heavily towards Celtic and Nordic music.

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