Across a medievil landscape the people wait for the setting sun, cities with walls taller than their highest buildings raise drawbridges and close stout doors against the night and the creatures that roam in it.
The day is a paradise that boasts a temperate climate in which all manner of plants grow without fail, animals of all kinds roam the woodland and no one in the land ever goes hungry; but then night falls.
The Nightworld is a different place and the beasts that roam it are anything but beneign: vampires, werewolves, trolls; gorgons, dragons and cerebrus. Death awaits anyone who roams the night and when a Dukes son, Oliver, finds himself away from the protective walls of his castle he finds the likelyhood of returning to it a small one.
That is until a chance meeting saves his live and begins an adventure that leads him across the land to the gates of hell and the very real Satan that dwells there.
David Bischoff’s Nightworld is a very odd little gem, on the surface its fantasy but not too far underneath its pure science fiction. Quickly we learn that the werewolf Oliver meets isn’t one of flesh and bone but of steel and wire and the Satan he is to seek out is one of computer terminals and whirling information disks. Though the common man of Nightworld believes in the spiritual monsters that hold them nightly prisoner this is all a facade. Nightworld is a created place, landscaped and designed by a far off empire that has all but forgotten about it; or so it seems.
Without warning something crash lands that changes all this and an urgent quest begins to secure it and its contents. Oliver travels with his saviour and battling through the night-things they eventually realise that the thing they seek might be something with even more importance than just defeating Satan himself.
The more a reader thinks about David Bischoff’s Nightworld the more the deceptively simple book unfolds, there are as many elements of Foundation in there as there are Dungeons and Dragons and the implications become more and more interesting as each layer is revealed.
As the Empire of the story mirrors the old British Empire some familiarity with it or English culture probably helps a lot, much of what might seem unlikely becomes far more likely when its considered through an English lens and it all adds Nightworld a kind of polite menace that does nothing to alleviate the immediate threat of dismemberment. The British Empire may have brushed up well but my ancestors knew how to subjegate and kill with the best of them. This – I think – makes the whole subject matter of the book Nightworld more plausable than it might have, after all its very easy to imagine Satan with an English accent.
There is also a great deal of rumination on the subject of faith, specifically of Christian faith, and how the characters faith in something effectively makes that something real; regardless of whether it started out that way or not.
Though I’m not particularly religious myself I do have friends and family who are, so I do find myself quite sensitive to attacks on religion in entertainment; and for christianity this is – unfortunately in my view – pretty common. Nightworld – on the other hand – mainly seems to focus on how religion is used rather than what it is.
Its hard to decide whether the Empire in the story used faith to manipulate the populace or whether the manipulation is a natural extention to a community that has indepenfantly developed faith.
Of a day the planet on which Nightworld is set is a paradise and at night its a hell; but faith is ever present and it seems to me that it cant therefore be blamed for the evils that stalk the night; it seems to me it merely influence the forms these evils take in much the same way that it influences the good that occurs during the worlds daytime hours. This relisation led me to see that those advocating the destruction of faith in the book were looking in the wrtong direction. All the true evils of the book are born on technology influenced by faith not the other way around and the evils in the book are eventually defeated by the destruction of of this technology by yet more technology.
When I completed the book it was this technology I looked on as the true evil in the book and not the faith that is so often discussed in it, lending credit – again just in my view – to the view that faith was the planets saviour over the soulessness of technological achievements.
Without realising it I’d read a bunch of novels from David Bischoff when I was younger including Aliens, Gremlins 2: The New Batch and WarGames but Nightworld was the first original novel I’d read from the author. He later went on to write a sequel called The Vampires of Nightworld and – intruigingly – a series of books that follow a similar idea through tabletop gaming in the Magi series of books.
Theres something extremely interesting about David Bischoff’s work, while the imagination of all authors is essential to creating complex and involving worlds Bischoff goes a step further; the characters he creates also effect the world through their own imaginations in a way that I’ve never seen outside of Micheal Ende’s stunning work The Neverending Story.
Don’t misunderstand me here Bischoff’s work is not an equal to that book, but it does tread similar ground in this multi-layed way where imagination is as key to the characters fates as are their intelligence and ingenuity.
At a scant 197 pages Nightworld is worth a few hours of your time as I’m sure it will be food for thought on occasion for some times afterwards; and as it contains very little in terms of violence, sex or anything else a person might find offensive its also a book thats pretty child friendly so it could be a good introduction to some rather complex ideas for a younger audience; for a suitable child of course.
With duel edged regret and anticipation i’ve added Bischoff’s other work to my ever growing reading list; I’m sure I’ll enjoy them, but I’m wondering if I’ll have the time to read them before my eye sight goes!