What if you followed the wrong person through the wrong door and found yourself at the center of something that could shake the foundations of the world?
Toby Dexter, a bookstore clerk from Bradford-on-Avon, finds out in Simon R. Green's "Drinking Midnight Wine" (Roc).
Toby, disillusioned and wondering what's happened to his life, falls madly in love with a beautiful female passenger who rides the train on his regular commute to work. One rainy evening, he decides to follow her, hoping he'll have a chance to meet her on the walk home. But when she opens a door in a wall where there wasn't one before, he gets more than he bargained for. He finds himself in the world of Mysterie, the world where magic has retired as science pushed it out of our own world.
Surrounded by gods, fallen angels and magical creatures of all sorts, Toby finds that he is one of the most important figures in Mysterie. He's a focal point, which means that soon he will make a decision that affects the fate of both Mysterie and Veritie, our own world.
Nicholas Hob, the Serpent's Son, is up to something and it's up to Toby and his mystery lady Gayle - who turns out to be much more than she appears - to stop him. They recruit the aid of a distant descendant of the Norse god Thor. Johnny Thunders is a leather clad godling who "looked less like a Norse deity and more like the god of Harley-Davidson worshipers, the kind of people who probably recited braking distances under a full moon and sacrificed a Kawasaki when they needed to beg a favor." Still, they'll need his help and more to stop the Hob and his father, the Serpent in the Sun, from bringing ruin to both worlds.
One thing that put this book over the top for me was that I identified immediately - and far too closely - with Toby. He's just turned 30 and is looking around at his life and wondering where those three decades have gone and what happened to his dreams and plans. Hmm ... sounds familiar somehow.
Aside from my commiseration with the main character, Green has presented a fantastic tale that weaves together ancient mythology and pop culture. It reminds me a lot of Neil Gaiman's fantastic "American Gods," but it's a little more fast-paced and intense.
Green has packed Mysterie with a cast of colorful characters who - aside from saving the two worlds - also have some personal issues to deal with. That added touch makes them more real and believable.
"Drinking Midnight Wine" has a little of everything - mystery, fantasy, horror, suspense and a wicked sense of humor. Green throws it all in a blender and what comes out is a very satisfying story. And besides, where else are you going to see a thunder god in a plaid robe and pink bunny slippers?