A Christmas play our school put on when I was very little. I didn't have any actual parts, but I thought it was pretty... ISTR it was something like a regular Nativity, only set in the 1800s or so.

There was a song in it, besides all the regular Christmas carols, sung by--I forget if it was the lamplighter or the night watchman, a different verse each time, roughly describing the rest of the play:

Night-time has fallen in our little town
Field full of shepherds, lost sheep have been found
An angel from heaven looks down where they lay
He says there's no danger for on this day
Is born in a manger a Savior to stay.

Morning has broken in our little town
Wise men are seeking a new king to crown
With gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh
To give to the son of a poor carpenter
Along with their praises to our Savior.

Everyone's singing in our little town
Fields and the valleys are filled with the sound
Of people rejoicing, for we are released
To spend eternity with the Prince of peace
Laying our golden crowns at his feet.

The melancholy tune for this remains with me till this day... bits of it have relyricked themselves under the severe working conditions in my brain:

When I think back on the way that we were
I can't remember your face
Night-time is calling, come to this place

oebgure, V zvff lbh...

Truth! Justice! Freedom! And a Hard-boiled Egg!

Nr. 27 of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, this little masterpiece of popular literature gives everyone's favourite policeman, Samuel Vimes, the chance to reassure that the trousers of time are properly ironed and stretched: thrown into the past by an unfortunate magicometerological mishap, Vimes has to make sure that his younger self becomes the copper he is (will be) by taking up the identity of his former sergeant and teach himself, or else.

Confused ? I bet!

It doesn't help that Lu-tze, the sweeper, and Qu, maker of timechanging gadgets and a whole lot of other timemonks try to prod things along as well.

This is a fastpaced, action-packed novel which unfortunately completely lacks the wit or fun of earlier watch-novels and is considerably darker, with people dying left right and center.

Especially the first chapter reads more like Die Hard with a Vengeance than a Discworld Novel. We meet all the usual Ankh - Morpork characters, alas thirty years younger and witness the rise of Lord Snapcase and the Republic of Treacle Mine Road.

Unmissable for every Pratchett - Fan, but certainly too convoluted for beginners.

Terry Pratchett, Night Watch. Doubleday, 2002
Night Watch (Ночной дозор, Nochnoi Dozor) is a modern dark fantasy film from Russia. It is notable for being one of the first relatively high-style, CGI effects-laden releases from a Russian filmmaker following the breakup of the Soviet Union which enjoyed a widespread release. It is loosely (very loosely) based on a series of books by author Sergei Lukyanenko, which comprises four books - Night Watch, Day Watch, Dusk Watch (Twilight Watch in the English) and Final Watch.

Damodred, who has a good point, mentions that it is highly recommended to read at least the first book before seeing this film. The author (and the books) are popular in Russia, and the film is (like the Harry Potter movies) an adaptation of a story which it is assumed a large percentage of the audience is familiar with. Like the Harry Potter movies, then, there are a number of elements missing from the movie which, no matter how cleanly they have been excised, nevertheless vastly increase the amount of sense that the rest of it makes if they are known.

It's difficult to review this film without spoilers. Much of what lends it its particular flavor comes as part and parcel of the story. However, before attempting to dance too close to betrayal, some general observations can be made safely. This is, as I mentioned above, a dark fantasy movie. It has been placed in the horror genre by some, but that does it a disservice - not because the genre is beneath it, but because it fits badly into the shape the words 'horror movie' paint in the minds of many people.

One thing about Night Watch is clear, though, and quite refreshing - it has a very distinctive feel about it which, I am told by several people who I trust to be right about this, is authentically Russian. I am not familiar with the culture or the atmosphere of Russia or Moscow, and the film takes place entirely within modern Moscow. However, while there are little signs of the Soviet Moscow so familiar to avid consumers of Cold War film - tiled cafe walls, tiny vodka stands, the elegant Metro stations, the everyday/all day consumption of zakuska with one's vipivka it is a swirl of one shade in a riot of modern color. Industrial technology painted in pukesick green and brown coexists with cars, computers and flat panel HD televisions of intimately familiar and sharp-edged blacks and garish primaries. The contrast of three generations of family crammed into a baize-tabled dining room eating borscht, placidly ignoring a bevy of interlopers who have set up a LAN of laptops and are going about all manner of mysterious business - all this is profoundly different from American moviemaking, and it's good.

What's it about? Ah. Here comes the dance close to the edge.

I'll try to stick close to things you might see in the trailer. It's about people, mostly - and the other people that walk among us. Like many other dark fantasy movies, it concerns an underworld of power, and how people fall into and out of it, and how they co-exist once there. They are called the Others, and they come in two varieties - the Dark and the Light. This isn't a vampire movie, although vampires show up - they're one kind of Dark Other. So are witches. There are psychics, and changelings, and hunters, and cops, and inquisitors.

Long ago, the Dark and the Light were at war. We're shown their last great battle, two armies meeting by chance on a bridge, engaged in a death struggle between ring mail clad, sword-bearing foot soldiers, pikemen and their contemporaries. Realizing the evenness of the match, the generals of the Light and Dark armies call a truce, a truce that has held to this day; and to regulate the activities of the Dark Others, the Lights maintain the Night Watch. The Darks maintain the Day Watch, to keep track of the Lights. And so both sides make sure the Truce is not violated; the Lights keep the Darks from preying unduly on the normal humans, who are unaware of their very presence, licensing those who must in order to survive (I said vampires showed up, right?)

And like every good fantasy, there's a Prophecy. But I'm not going to get into that.

We join the action in modern day Moscow, when...something happens. Something that begins to tip this for-so-long static complexity of forces, and we watch as the agents of the Light and the forces of the Dark begin to move about, frantically, in reaction.

Powers are unleashed. Pasts are revealed. In some cases, lives are taken.

And it's amazing what a flashlight can do.

The movie, in my opinion alone, doesn't make it up into the ranks of truly memorable fantasy action flicks. There's no serious plot twisting; there are a few attempts at turnabouts, but they seem to have come by liberties taken with the novel source material, and it shows a bit. Much of the complexity of the novel (I've only read the first), much of the philosophy involved in the balance and difference between the Dark and Light sides which gives the Truce and the War its power is missing in favor of action sequences and more expedient storytelling.

This is offset to some degree, but not entirely, by the particular nature of the vision, as I said earlier. It's refreshing to come across a film which doesn't really feel like a rehash of The Matrix or of a Paul Verhoeven film and which manages to retain its character while playing with the big budget boys. Especially one that was made for just over $4.2 million U.S. dollars. The plotline and the trailer will call up comparisons (to Western viewers) with the big-budget spectacle Underworld. I've seen that, and my take on it is that while there are many fewer guns in this movie, and while I didn't see any women nearly as hot as Kate Beckinsale in leather tights, this was a better movie than Underworld - more interesting and much more distinctive.

The international release of the film done by Fox Searchlight, which is the one I saw, has apparently been edited as far as content - several scenes are missing and a few are added in order to make the storyline more easily followed by a language-bound audience. I saw it as a dubbed release, as well; I believe with the original cast, but I'm not positive.

Note: if you're going to see this movie, you'll want to see Day Watch (Дневной дозор, Dnevnoi Dozor) - they're really two parts of the same movie.

Night Watch (Ночной дозор, Nochnoi Dozor) - 2004
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Screenplay: Timur Bekmambetov and Laeta Kalogridis

Konstantin Khabensky - Anton Gorodetsky
Vladimir Menshov - Gesser
Viktor Verzhbitsky - Zavulon
Valeri Zolotukhin - The Butcher, Kostya's Father
Aleksei Chadov - Kostya
Mariya Poroshina - Svetlana
Galina Tyunina - Olga

Title: Night Watch
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko
Translator: Andrew Bromfield
Publisher: American - harper collins, Russian - AST : AST MOSKVA : Tranzitkniga

The first thing to note for American readers is that (at least in my experience) the Russians aren't afraid to take a heavy dose of moral philosophy with their Urban Fantasy.

The Nightwatch books (a tetraology, if you will) are a meditation on the nature of good and evil and whether there's actually a difference among them, set in the mess of post-Soviet Russia.

The books are, in a word, lyrical. Each book has a listing of which band's lyrics are quoted, and the main character, Anton, will often consult whatever song comes up on his discman to see how centered he is in the world. The result is an amazingly dark, vivid, intense experience the likes of which I've experienced nowhere else.

To put it simply, the first time I picked up Nightwatch, I read it through three times in a row, in the space of about 3 weeks. It simply had that much of an impact on me.

In the World of Nightwatch, there are magical beings among us who call themselves "Others", and who can draw energy from the mundanes around them (Dark others from those who suffer, Light others from those who are experiencing Joy) and can then engage the world around them in acts of power.

However, for the duration of recent memory, the Light and the Dark have been in a treaty to keep them from mutual destruction, and within that treaty, any time an agent of the Light gets to do something positive to the world around them, agents of the Dark get to commit a like act of equal power.

To keep up with this, there are two police forces in existence across the world; the DayWatch (made up of the forces of the Dark) who watch out for Light magicians acting within society, and the NightWatch (made up of the forces of the Light) watching out for Dark magicians acting within society.

The forces of the Light are constantly caught up in massive social experiments; they are the group, for instance, that started the Communist revolution, because they thought it would result in a golden age for everybody. The forces of the Dark fight for individual freedom, at the cost of all else, sort of the ultimate Libertarians.

And at this point, having described this much to you, I've only scratched the surface of what's in this book. I'll let you meet Anton, and Gesar, and all of the other characters I've come to love yourself.

I will say, there aren't any other books in my library like this, that strike me the same way. The only author I could compare it to would be Patricia McKillip, and she's not even in the same genre. But both McKillip and Lukyanenko have that particular, individual, powerful approach to things that leaves them outside of the rest of fiction, and that draws one back for the way that they will change the way one sees the world.

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