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THE WAR IN THE DARK ***

Written by Nick Setchfield. Published by Titan Books on 17th July 2018. Paperback, RRP £7.99. 416pp

 

The Cold War seems to be making a comeback, not only in real life with recent events striking close to home here but in fiction as well. This year alone has seen the release of Jennifer Lawrence’s vicious spy thriller Red Sparrow, the conclusion on television of The Americans and now in print we have SFX editor Nick Setchfield’s debut novel The War In The Dark. Events here however take an occult turn that you would be hard pressed to find in the works of Ian Fleming and Tom Clancy for instance.

 

Christopher Winter is an assassin for British Intelligence in the early sixties. When a job to take out a priest whose loyalties lie elsewhere goes spectacularly and fantastically wrong, Winter finds himself questioning everything as he gradually realises there is more to this world and his job than he could have ever guessed. Setchfield leads us on an adventure across Europe that takes in villainous Russians, warlocks, various sadistic demons and immortals all wrapped up in a satisfying and entertaining package.

 

The melding of the two genres is nicely done here. As well as an obvious love for all things fantasy and horror the authors love for spy fiction and the history of spying for one’s country jumps off the pages here. Various facts and tidbits of spy craft and lore are liberally sprinkled throughout the book alongside a slew of imaginative and violent legends and practices of blood magick, sorcery and summonings.

 As imaginative as the book is however it fails to rise above cliché in a number of areas. Winter is not the most compelling hero and all too often he exclaims aloud that he does not really believe what is going on and challenges the beliefs of those around him, even though he has already seen and experienced such events in the first hundred pages alone that would shatter anyone’s belief system. His fellow protagonist Karina, another deadly assassin with a mysterious past, is a bit one note also. The many antagonists they encounter however are much more interesting and entertaining; a demonic Russian femme fatale with her nonchalant thirst for her victims sorrow as well as an English warlock enlisted by MI5 whose loyalties lie entirely somewhere else are easily the books most entertaining characters with their wicked and bloody behaviour showing up much more entertainingly against the po-faced heroes.

 

The dialogue also comes across as one note more often than not but Setchfield keeps things moving at such a pace right up until the end that it is more often than not easy to forgive. However, one can not fail to notice the similarities between the books climax and that of a certain eighties blockbuster which featured a certain fedora wearing, whip wielding hero. From villains to setting to devices used and the way that it plays out on a supernatural scale it comes across as affectionate homage, or even the novelistic equivalent of a cover version, more than an act of unimaginative plagiarism.

 

The book is a fun read that has imagination to spare and a bit of something for everyone based on what genre they prefer, be it spy adventure or dark horror. Not to give any spoilers away but it does wrap up quite neatly with enough space left for more adventures in this world. With the often-dangerous way the Cold War played out on the world stage for the rest of the sixties it could make for some interesting reading to see how Setchfield will incorporate his fantastical hellish universe as a backdrop.

 

Iain MacLeod

 

 

This web site is owned and published by London FrightFest Limited.

FrightFest is the registered trade mark of London FrightFest Limited.  © 2000 - 2018

THE WAR IN THE DARK ***

Written by Nick Setchfield. Published by Titan Books on 17th July 2018. Paperback, RRP £7.99. 416pp

 

The Cold War seems to be making a comeback, not only in real life with recent events striking close to home here but in fiction as well. This year alone has seen the release of Jennifer Lawrence’s vicious spy thriller Red Sparrow, the conclusion on television of The Americans and now in print we have SFX editor Nick Setchfield’s debut novel The War In The Dark. Events here however take an occult turn that you would be hard pressed to find in the works of Ian Fleming and Tom Clancy for instance.

 

Christopher Winter is an assassin for British Intelligence in the early sixties. When a job to take out a priest whose loyalties lie elsewhere goes spectacularly and fantastically wrong, Winter finds himself questioning everything as he gradually realises there is more to this world and his job than he could have ever guessed. Setchfield leads us on an adventure across Europe that takes in villainous Russians, warlocks, various sadistic demons and immortals all wrapped up in a satisfying and entertaining package.

 

The melding of the two genres is nicely done here. As well as an obvious love for all things fantasy and horror the authors love for spy fiction and the history of spying for one’s country jumps off the pages here. Various facts and tidbits of spy craft and lore are liberally sprinkled throughout the book alongside a slew of imaginative and violent legends and practices of blood magick, sorcery and summonings.

 As imaginative as the book is however it fails to rise above cliché in a number of areas. Winter is not the most compelling hero and all too often he exclaims aloud that he does not really believe what is going on and challenges the beliefs of those around him, even though he has already seen and experienced such events in the first hundred pages alone that would shatter anyone’s belief system. His fellow protagonist Karina, another deadly assassin with a mysterious past, is a bit one note also. The many antagonists they encounter however are much more interesting and entertaining; a demonic Russian femme fatale with her nonchalant thirst for her victims sorrow as well as an English warlock enlisted by MI5 whose loyalties lie entirely somewhere else are easily the books most entertaining characters with their wicked and bloody behaviour showing up much more entertainingly against the po-faced heroes.

 

The dialogue also comes across as one note more often than not but Setchfield keeps things moving at such a pace right up until the end that it is more often than not easy to forgive. However, one can not fail to notice the similarities between the books climax and that of a certain eighties blockbuster which featured a certain fedora wearing, whip wielding hero. From villains to setting to devices used and the way that it plays out on a supernatural scale it comes across as affectionate homage, or even the novelistic equivalent of a cover version, more than an act of unimaginative plagiarism.

 

The book is a fun read that has imagination to spare and a bit of something for everyone based on what genre they prefer, be it spy adventure or dark horror. Not to give any spoilers away but it does wrap up quite neatly with enough space left for more adventures in this world. With the often-dangerous way the Cold War played out on the world stage for the rest of the sixties it could make for some interesting reading to see how Setchfield will incorporate his fantastical hellish universe as a backdrop.

 

Iain MacLeod

 

 

This web site is owned and published by London FrightFest Limited.

FrightFest is the registered trade mark of London FrightFest Limited.
 © 2000 - 2018