Review: Nocturnal by Scott Sigler
Scott Sigler is at his best when he mixes the genres he obviously loves. His space opera, football novel, The Rookie still probably remains my favorite, but I also really like sci-fi horror mix he brings to Infected and Contagious. For Nocturnal he takes the cops vs mobsters motif and mixes in a race of vicious genetic freaks.
Set in San Francisco, Nocturnal was released as a podcast only novel, with a significant amount of supplemental material on the associated blog: maps, models, etc. It was interesting to follow what was basically a first draft, particularly in the first few episodes as Sigler experimented with (and solicited input about) the sound effects and level of production value. You can read the first chapter for free, if that’s more your speed.
In Nocturnal the initially stereotypical characters, the orphan kid being bullied, the Cop with a violent past, etc grow into dark(er), tragic versions while they simultaneously softened into approachable, complex characters. The threads of gang warfare and police corruption find mirrors in the internal politics of the nocturnals. Because he shows us the good the bad and the worse amongst the nocturnals, some become vaguely sympathetic characters, even as they prey on humanity. There are plenty of complexities, but Sigler is most fun when he lets loose the violence. He gives us gun battles, explosions, serial killers, torture, autopsies and taxidermy. The climax on the military vessel was intense, even if it did get spread out over months, since I was following the podcast.
I like the mix of genres, but would actually have liked more of the science, particularly the genetics since it was so important to the story. I had a constant feel that the pacing was off, but that was probably from getting the first draft in weekly installments. Usually Sigler is spot on with the dramatic tension needed to propel a work that gets so violent. I enjoyed the story enough that I’ll probably revisit it when it eventually arrives in dead tree form, and look forward to experiencing it after some editing.