Drinking Midnight Wine
Simon R. Green
Review by J. J. Walton

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Toby Dexter is a 30ish man sleepwalking through life. He has a dead end job in a bookstore, no ambitions and no pretensions to greatness. He lives alone in a modest house and seldom socializes. He can at best be described as innocuous. Dexter is aroused from his perpetual stupor by the sight of an extraordinarily beautiful woman who rides the same daily commuter train as he. Of course Dexter is too cowardly to say hello and spends several painful weeks worshipping the lady from afar. One day, on impulse, Dexter decides to follow the woman off the train, through the train station and into the pouring rain. The woman, upset at the precipitation, abruptly turns back toward the station and walks through a door Dexter had not seen before. He follows and emerges into a dry and sunny day.

Dexter has crossed from our mundane world into a land where gods and magic are common place. And the woman he followed, Gayle, is much more than she seems.

For better or worse, Dexter is no longer entirely "real" and must now make a place for himself in a world where he doesn't belong. Our world, the "real" world is called Veritie and the magical world is called Mysterie. For various reasons many beings of power make their homes in the town of Bradford on Avon which exists in both worlds. There is quite a bit of overlap and Dexter visits many places which are at once familar and inexplicably sinister.

Dexter himself really is a dullard. His only interesting quality is his love for Gayle and his willingness to fight (and die) for her. Fortunately Mysterie is populated with such characters Waking Beauty, Jimmy Thunder and Luna. Beauty never sleeps and sees everything which goes on in Bradford on Avon. Thunder is a private investigator and the last descendant of Thor, the Norse god of thunder. His godly powers are well diluted by too much mortal blood. Luna, Gayle's sister, is crazy but has the integrity to admit it.

Of course Somthing Is Wrong and Dexter is in a position to help make things right. (Which is the point of the whole book.) He is a Focal Point for coming events which can have deadly repercussions in both worlds. Most of the book consists of Dexter and Gayle wandering around searching for clues and asking for help.

While I found Drinking Midnight Wine to be entertaining in places, there are several awkward scenes, usually when Dexter is speaking, and there is nothing new here. It is very similar in subject matter and execution to the novel Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, which also was not terribly original.

By the way, I think the title Drinking Midnight Wine was an afterthought.

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