Literature / Night Watcher
A 2004 Russian provincial horror novel by Oleg Divov
. Aside from "Russian provincial horror", it has also been described as "a truthful story about vampires" and "a combination of "rural prose" and "urban prose", a mixture of genres" and "a novel about choosing your path". Ultimately, it's a witty and original take on a trope-laden genre (possibly several trope-laden genres) with some really vivid descriptions, some kick-ass action scenes and plenty of memorable characters.
Andrey Luzgin, a Moscow journalist, plans to visit his home village near a provincial Russian town not far from the capital during the summer to clear his mind. Along the way there he hears more and more ominous rumours about weird happenings in the town and the countryside alike, though most people he tries to talk about it with either don't know too much about it themselves or obviously know more than they are willing to say. Much of the first of the novel's three parts takes place in the village, where Luzgin gradually begins to find out more about the situation, and suspect so much more beside; also, he helps the villagers capture one of the main weird things involved, only for this capture to turn into a major moral dilemma for the journalist himself, one that causes him to go into the city itself. Soon after which point he finally gets wrapped up in the actual main plot of the novel directly, which has to do with an out of control vampire infestation in the town. The story really picks off then and only gets better from there, as Luzgin and the captured werewolf both become involved in the anti-vampire operations together with several other unlikely allies
, as they try to track down and eliminate the eponymous "Night Watcher" - an elite vampire population control officer from Moscow gone rogue
who is behind the current outbreak.
The novel provides examples of:
- Achilles' Heel: Silver is this for vampires; subverted in that there are other, more conventional ways to kill a vampire, this is just much more certain and foolproof.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Bloodsucking vampires eventually degenerate into this.
- An Axe to Grind: Captain Kotov's weapon of choice. He occasionally jokingly calls it "my trusty sword".
- Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: The city militsiya force is systematically and thoroughly corrupt, to the point where its commander was planning to use vampires in a power ploy against The Mafiya. This plan was only changed when his ''daughter'' was raped and turned into a vampire.
- Badass Normal: The human Night Teams would probably qualify in general; the one seen in the book itself certainly does, seeing as it consists of just two cops (Captain Kotov and Sergeant Zykov, each badass in his own ways) that nonetheless are capable of fighting vampires in top shape when needed (though they generally prefer to kill them in their sleep, of course).
- Big Bad: The title eventually turns out to refer to this guy.
- Cowboy Cop: Captain Kotov was starting to become this (even shooting a dangerous criminal with Karma Houdini tendencies in cold blood, though that was equal parts vigilantism and suicidal tendencies) before he veered into Vampire Hunter territory. Though that only really meant that he was now a Cowboy Vampire Hunter, especially after he went out of the Government Conspiracy's control by contacting Igor, their chief informer and local vampire specialist, directly.
- Da Chief: The General, though he's rather more cooperative and pragmatic than is usual for this trope.
- Despair Event Horizon: Igor Dolinsky undergoes this after his wife became a vampire. See trope entry.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Grey, Igor Dolinsky's Canine Companion, has an adverse reaction to vampires, which means he mostly just kills them on sight. Also, all the village animals dislike Vova, who, while not evil, was admittedly terrorising everyone with his psychic powers out of sheer fear.
- The Faceless: The Elders, by means of messing with everyone's heads. Also, if they even exist, The Future Ones.
- The Fettered: Igor Dolinsky, especially after overcoming his Despair Event Horizon. Vova seems to develop into this as well by the end, being already incapable of lying and learning to use his powers thoughtfully and responsibly.
- Six Man Band: Not a clean case by far, but one can be argued for in the final battle:
- Glamour Failure: Kotov realizes that Lena, his lover, is now a vampire who is messing with his mind like there's no tomorrow when he finally notices the strong stench of blood coming from her, her clothes and his clothes where her clothes touched them. He freaks out.
- Horror Hunger: Vampires. Blood. It's oh so very graphic and gruesomely described at some point (the hunger more so than the act of satisfying it, actually), especially by a character that managed to resist the temptation, but at great difficulty and at a horrible cost (he needed to be tied up in the basement for months).
- Hunter of His Own Kind: Night Watchers are supposed to be this, though for purposes of population control and masquerade maintenance ( the one send to this town went bad on all counts). Igor Dolinsky probably counts as well.
- I Hate You, Vampire Dad: Averted/carried over by one degree as neither Igor nor Mikhail hate their respective love partners (lover in Igor's case, wife in Mikhail's) for turning them into vampires, but they do both resent whoever turned them into vampires in the first place. Also averted/inverted with Igor's wife, who, despite secretly becoming a vampire herself after being raped by her husband in a mindless frenzy, forgives him and helps him save himself, then turns out to have come to enjoy the vampire lifestyle herself, eventually being salvaged by and enrolled into the "true vampire" conspiracy, effectively disappearing from Igor's wife forever. Needless to say, Igor hates himself for all this to the point of a Heroic B.S.O.D..
- Looks Like Orlok: Don't drink blood or this will happen to you! Eventually.
- Magic Knight: Igor's main assets are his connections within the town's establishment and his intimidating psychic powers, but he is also quite handy with a tire iron.
- Masquerade: The vampire Elders and the highest echelons of human government work together on keeping the existence of the vampires secret from the world at large. It's not exactly clear which of the two groups is in charge of this, though.
- Mugging the Monster: Partly inverted when a vampire tries to stalk a cop. That cop happens to be Sergeant Zykov, who hilariously mistakes it for the other kind of stalking and decides to teach the creepy, kinda fruity guy following him around a lesson by roughing him up and bringing him to the station. Luckily, he's intercepted on the way there by Captain Kotov, who by this point already knows how to deal with vampires and manages to finish the monster off just in time.
- Must Be Invited: Invoked by the main character before he quite knew what's what, but otherwise averted.
- The Nicknamer: Kotov insists on calling vampires "faggots" except when he is serious, based on the above incident (Mugging the Monster). He also insists on calling Zykov "the Terminator" or "Robocop" due to his Implacable Man tendencies.
- Not Using the Z Word: Mikhail dislikes the stupid, vulgar foreign term "vampire" that everyone else in the book is all too happy to use and decides to come up with his own. He eventually invents the term "nochnoy" ("Nocturnal"), though it fails to catch on until the epilogue, where he is dead and his friends have began to use this, in what might be a stealth Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Oh boy, let's see. There are approximately three or four types, though the boundaries between some of them can be pretty formal. Upon infection, all vampires gain greater-than-human strength, speed and senses, not to mention Psychic Powers, at night, but also become lethargic by day and compelled to drink human blood. Blood gives a tremendous boost to their strength, speed, etc. (as well as self-confidence, often to disastrous degrees), but a) the boost is temporary, b) blood is addictive and c) bloodsuckers begin to wear out quickly, becoming worse and worse off during the day and eventually beginning to degenerate into mindless animals even in night life. As they become dumber, they also begin to get together into animalistic hunting packs, led by a likewise-decaying, but somehow stronger and more dangerous "alpha"; this helps them survive longer, unless they are killed by other vampires or attract too much attention and are killed by humans. Not all vampires have to be this way, though - if you manage to quit blood cold turkey, you become something that could be called a half-vampire or a super vampire; basically, you miss out on the blood boost (unless you eventually drink blood anyway, which may be enough to start the decay all over again, though chances are you still are going to be way more powerful than your simpler bloodsucker peers), but you still are superior to normal humans in every way, and you don't suffer any of this decay. You do become rather detached from ordinary humans, though. Most of the vampires that successfully kicked their blood habit join the extant vampire conspiracy, starting out as very relatively sociable Masters and eventually moving up to be becoming reclusive, powerful (especially with regards to the aforementioned Psychic Powers) Elders, who apparently feed on pure energy streams that humanity doesn't even know to exist and are purposefully never seen. Some more "vampire facts":
- Vampires are not immortal. Even the Elders can live to a bit over 150 at best, though they remain fully active to the end. Ordinary bloodsuckers can last 6 years, maybe, but most of them die unnaturally long before that. It's hinted that the immortality myth is just an element of Elder propaganda, aimed at intimidating the humans and keeping the lower-ranking vampires in line.
- Vampires are very hard to kill, but not really immune to normal weapons as such. Their one big weakness is silver; the Night Teams therefore use injections. Daylight effectively suppresses most regular vampires, pisses off their pack leaders if they are attacked during the day, and hasn't much of an effect on non-blood-sucker vampires
- Vampirism is viral (sort of - a character who should know disputes this, but really, it works similar enough for our purposes), but apparently it's a STD that only works for 1% of the entire human population. "Luckily", those humans tend to have good chemistry with each other...
- In one mindscrewy segment quite another story is told. Vampires are just an evolutionary-dead-end offshoot of humanity, their society is controlled by humans, and the Elders don't exist. (More exactly, "the Elder" is a vampire slang for vampire-controlling human.) Current increase of vampires' numbers is a result of military experiments, mainly ran by non-nuclear powers trying - and failing - to get an edge over more technologically advanced societies. In addition, there exist among us some other non-humans - the Future Ones, who have nothing to do with vampires and might be the next evolutionary step after homo sapiens sapiens. Though, as said, it might have all been a dream.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: Although Andrey Luzgin, the main character, insists on calling Vova a werewolf, this is actually dubious since he really is different. He is a mutant that kind of looks like something in between a human and a wolf (or at any rate a beast) all the time, and despite being physically strong is more notable for his extraordinarily strong Psychic Powers, mostly communicating through telepathy. He did use to be a normal boy before something happened, though.
- Psychic Powers, mainly all things directly mind-related: All the vampires have this, to one extent or another. Vova the Friendly Neighbourhood Werewolf has this too and can beat a veteran Master in a mind-fight; it's not clear how he would do against an Elder, though.
- Rasputinian Death: Happens to the Night Watcher in the climax. Specifically, he is attacked while asleep, delimbed, partly encased in cement, hit with a shovel in the face several times for acting up and finally is mercifully injected with silver.
- Silver Bullet: Kotov and Zykov pack those, among other ammunition.
- Smarter Than You Look: Zykov, maybe. If not, then he still is an Idiot Savant with regards to guns and ammunition.
- Super Senses: Vampires of both varieties get those. Mikhail, being a painter, is particularly fond of those - and terrified to find out that they are going to fade/become useless for his artistic purposes (as opposed to animalistic survival) as he degenerates, especially as he can no longer see colours during the day.
- Super Strength: Part of the whole vampire package. While a blood-charged vampire has this to a far greater extent, Igor Dolinsky has this too, and at some point demonstrates this by effortlessly bending a tire iron into a noose.
- There Are No Therapists: Averted. There is a therapist, who is something of a minor kleptomaniac but otherwise perfectly competent and generally quite awesome; he doubles as the second most knowledgeable vampire expert in town, though he doesn't know anywhere near as much as Igor does, and even Igor doesn't know all that much. He tries to be as helpful as possible, both as a therapist and as a vampirologist, whenever given the chance. Of course, during the present time events of the book he couldn't help literal Heroic Sociopath Captain Kotov much, even though he tried... But in the epilogue, it is shown that Kotov ended up in a mental hospital - and is actually making a steady recovery, which, all things considered, is a testament both to how badass he is and how awesome his shrink is.
- ‹bermensch: Mikhail (a literal Nietzsche Wannabe as opposed to a pure nihilist) does some rants about him (and other "proper" - i.e. bloodsucking - vampires) being this, and positions Igor Dolinsky as the Last Man. Dolinsky points out that not only are the bloodsuckers amoral, emotionally-unhinged hedonists even at their peak, but they also eventually degenerate into mindless animals. He is right, of course.
- Vampire Refugee: Arguably, all of the vampires that managed to quit blood apply. Igor Dolinsky counts as this regardless - he figured out how to beat the blood addiction himself without ever actually drinking a drop, stayed out of the international vampire conspiracy (though he still ended up having to work with them on local affairs) and even saved another vampire with his methods, though they clearly still need improving if they are to work properly for vampires that aren't as badass as him. Mikhail says something to the point of doing this as well, as well as getting revenge on the vampire that infected his wife and, indirectly, him, but fails utterly on both counts.