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The Night Market


The Night Market

Readers will occasionally encounter a book that shifts their perception of reality. I’m not talking about a novel or an essay that causes them to change their mind about an issue or undermines their certainty with respect to a particular position. I’m speaking of a work that turns their world upside down. In this case, I’m referring to THE NIGHT MARKET by Jonathan Moore, which is as upsetting and revealing a book as you are likely to read in this or any year.

I’m not engaging in hyperbole here. THE NIGHT MARKET is the final installment of a trilogy of very loosely connected novels set in San Francisco. The first two of these were THE POISON ARTIST and THE DARK ROOM, both of which are proudly displayed on my bookshelf and bear rereading whether or not time permits. As good as they are, Moore’s latest is a quantum leap beyond them, a tale that transcends genre boundaries and is by turns a cautionary tale and --- get ready --- a cautionary explanation of some of the more irrational behavior that is occurring around us.

"Mystery and thriller readers will find much to love here, but fans of science fiction also should embrace this incredible work."

The third person narrator of THE NIGHT MARKET follows the point of view of SFPD Inspector Ross Carver, who on a fateful night responds to a report of a fatality in one of San Francisco’s luxury residences. Only moments after he arrives at the horrific scene, the FBI shows up, removes him from the premises, and forces him into a contamination trailer, where he loses consciousness. Carver awakens in his apartment to find that his neighbor across the hall --- a beautiful woman he has never met and has only appreciated from afar --- is caring for him. He also discovers that he has no memory of what occurred. All Carver knows is what he feels, and he feels as if something is way off.

Moore creates a fascinating scenario whereby the reader knows more about the protagonist than he himself is aware of. Carver painstakingly investigates what happened to him, and while he does so, the reader learns in increments that the setting of the novel is San Francisco in a (somewhat) foreseeable and dystopian future. Moore does not tell but shows, in a number of subtle ways --- the prevalence of electric vehicles, weather changes, and a new method of advertising --- and one near the end that not only thinly ties THE NIGHT MARKET in with its predecessors, but also measures how far in the future the book is actually set.

However, the real reason for reading this novel is the enigmatic Mia, who knows far more than she is telling and reveals what she knows in a piecemeal manner. Her ultimate revelation is beyond chilling. It explains what occurs in the story’s present, as well as our own, but does not explain everything. That information is left for the conclusion, which Moore somehow makes both horrific and bittersweet. It’s the best example of the man’s incredible talent, though far from the only one.

While reading, I was reminded by turns of Dashiell Hammett and Philip K. Dick, but the tone and the prose belong entirely to Moore. Mystery and thriller readers will find much to love here, but fans of science fiction also should embrace this incredible work. Look for THE NIGHT MARKET to be shortlisted for awards across a number of different genres next year.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 19, 2018

The Night Market
by Jonathan Moore