This is the latest in the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn. Kitty is a werewolf with a radio talk show where she discusses paranormal life. It’s a pretty good series, at least the early books.
This is the 11th book in the series and among the weakest. There’s a lot of padding and most of the storylines just spin their wheels without going anywhere. I hate to speculate on motivations but it sure reads like a book written just to fulfill a contract. Except….
There is one really interesting character in this book. He is a vampire priest named Columban. That’s right, he’s an actual priest who’s also a vampire. He can’t wear a cross or handle holy water but he carries out missions for the Vatican and fights evil around the world. He shows up in the book to try to recruit Rick (the vampire master of Denver and a good friend of Kitty) to join a holy order of vampire priests. This is a pretty cool premise. Rick is a 500 year old vampire who was once a conquistador. He abandoned the Church he loved because he thought there was no place in it for a vampire. Now he’s offered the chance to rejoin the Church he never stopped loving.
I’d love to read a series of books about an order of vampire priests. Unfortunately, Carrie Vaughn isn’t the right person to write it. Anyway, I can’t give this book a recommendation. There’s just too much boring stuff to slog through to get to the one interesting character.
“NOS4A2″ is a novel by Joe Hill. The title comes from the vanity plate used by the villain of the story and it’s pronounced “nosferatu”. So is this a vampire book? [spoiler alert] Not really, at least in the traditional sense. There’s no blood drinking, holy water, crosses or sleeping in coffins. The bad guy is a kind of psychic vampire. He sucks the life from his victims (sort of) and gains a kind of immortality. But no, I don’t consider this a vampire book. Which is why this posting isn’t labeled as a review. I try to limit my reviews to vampire fiction. OTOH, I read the whole thing, all 680 pages and I don’t want that to go to waste. So rather than post a review of NOS4A2, I’ll just post a discussion of the book.
Look, I know it isn’t fair to compare to compare NOS4A2 to a Stephen King novel. But it’s also irresistible since Joe Hill is King’s son. And let’s face it, if you’ve read a lot of Stephen King, NOS4A2 will seem real familiar. Creepy child abductor similar to the clown in IT? Check! Small town New England setting? Check! Lots of backstory, even for minor characters? Check! Showing the slimy underbelly of idyllic small towns (very David Lynch-ish)? Check! Badly in need of a ruthless editor with a pair of scissors? Check!
Bottom line? If you wish Stephen King wrote more books like he wrote 30 years ago, this is the book for you. Just don’t expect it to be quite as good.
I get very nervous when mainstream writers dabble in genre fiction. Will they treat the material seriously enough? Will they treat it too seriously? Will the writing be all artsy-fartsy? Will I have to work too hard to read it? So much can go wrong.
“Vampires in the Lemon Grove” is the title story in a collection by Karen Russell. Russell is not a vampire writer, or horror writer, or genre writer. She is a LITERARY writer with impressive literary awards and her works get reviewed by the New York Times. Is there a chance this could be any good?
First, the story is about actual, blood drinking vampires. Of course, the vampires are metaphors for something or other. And the blood drinking is also a metaphor. And this is a story that any English teacher could assign you to write a paper about the imagery and themes. So, yeah, reading this seemed like work.
On the other hand, the writing was very good and the main character was very interesting. It’s a very short, sharply focused short story. I found it worth reading. (True confession: I didn’t read any of the other stories in the collection. Don’t tell the teacher.)
I’m a big fan of Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson novels. Mercy is a Native American/shapeshifting coyote/auto mechanic raised by werewolves and best friends with a vampire. Relax, Briggs keeps track of all that and makes it all work.
The latest novel gets off to a strong start. The local werewolf pack has been kidnapped by government agents. Mercy has to avoid capture while searching for the pack and protecting her friends. It’s a great premise, mysterious and action packed. Unfortunately, the middle of the book slows to a crawl and the ending contains page after page of exposition. Overall, this entry in the Mercy Thompson saga is a disappointment. Still, mediocre Mercy Thompson is better than most other books. Vampires are just a minor part of the story until the end. Then, they get featured. This probably isn’t the best introduction to the series. I recommend reading them in order.
Do you like amateurish movies shot in dim light with a handheld camera? You might want to give this one a try. It’s a pseudo-documentary about a crew of bottom feeding vampire hunters. Our heroes are low tech low lifes who treat vampire hunting like an exterminating job.
Look, in an absurdly low budget movie like this I don’t expect great acting, or even good acting, or even competent acting. The acting in this movie was a couple levels below that. And it was a problem because I actually liked the writing on this movie. The story was pretty interesting and the characters were distinctive. But what was great was the dialogue. These were really good lines as written on the pages of the screenplay. But then they died when they came out of the mouths of this cast.
If this was a student film or a demo, I think somebody should hire the writer. The director did a decent job. None of the actors should ever work again. But what you really want to know is, is it worth my time watching? I think so, but it’s a close call. It’s easy for me to overlook bad special effects, bad costumes or bad sets. It’s a lot harder overlooking terrible acting. But this movie might be worth it.
OK, this comic made the list of best vampire comics from my last post…and I had never heard of it. So I got a copy of the first 2 collections to try. First, let me give a couple disclaimers. I’m not a big fan of manga. I don’t like the art style and I find the culture hard to relate to. Second, this comic seems to be Young Adult in themes and sensibility. I’m willing to read YA literature and I’ve enjoyed some but much of it just doesn’t connect with my NSYA (Not So Young Adult) brain.
Tsukune is a typical, teenage boy who somehow gets enrolled in a high school for monsters. His classmates include a succubus, a witch, a werewolf…you get the idea. His best friend and romantic interest is a pretty vampire. Tsukune’s challenge is to fight off attacks by bullies, fight off advances by hot chicks that he’s not interested in, win the affection of the vampire and keep his humanity a secret. It’s a pretty good premise with a lot of potential.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t won over. The comic isn’t bad, just not good enough for me to keep reading. The stories are a little too simplistic but I also have a big problem with the art. Some of it is solid but the artist (Akihisa Ikeda) frequently draws characters with facial expressions that are completely wrong for the situation. He also has trouble with the flow from panel to panel. I had a hard time following action sequences.
Overall, I can’t recommend Rosario+Vampire. But if you are a lot younger than me and enjoy manga, give it a try.
Mrs. VampireGuy just sent me a link to The Best Vampires in Comics over on the Bookish website (Vampire Guy happens to be married to a librarian). It’s a pretty good list that I need to comment on.
1) 30 Days of Night – I’m not a big fan of either the comic or the movie. The comic had a really cool premise but I hated the artwork by Ben Templesmith. It’s very moody and atmospheric but not very good at storytelling. I recognize that this is a well crafted comic, it just wasn’t for me. And I have no problem with somebody else considering it among the best.
2) Fray: Future Slayer – This is a Buffy spinoff telling the story of a vampire slayer in the distant future. It’s pretty good science fiction as well as a vampire story. The dialogue is hard to understand and the setting is disorienting as Joss Whedon uses language to show all the changes in society over the centuries. It’s a difficult read but well worth the effort. This is a worthy entry on the list. Later, there was a crossover between Fray and Buffy during the season 8 arc.
3) Rosario + Vampire – OK, I admit it. I’ve never heard of this. That’s not surprising since I’m not a big fan of manga. And this is very typical of Japanese comics. It takes place at a high school for vampires and follows the sweet romance between a vampire and the only human student (or is he?) in the school. Look for a fuller review in my next post.
4) I, Vampire – I gave this a negative review back here. Maybe it improved after I quit reading. If this is one of the Best Vampire Comics, the genre’s in big trouble.
5) American Vampire – I gave this title a positive review here. Go read it. The series started slowly but just got better and better (or maybe I got smarter and smarter). I’d put this title at the top of the list.
Overall, I’m kinda disappointed in this list. First, it seems like it contains most of the non-manga vampire comics being published today. (30 Days spinoffs continue to be published.) I wish there were more vampire comics to choose from. Second, I notice that none of the Buffyverse comics made the list, and correctly so. Third, I would have included Ex-Sanguine on the list instead of I,Vampire. Admittedly, it’s only had a few issues and might not have the track record.
So what did you think of the list?
I didn’t realize that the movie “John Carpenter’s Vampires” was based on a book until a reader of this blog pointed it out. So I read the book and re-watched the movie. It’s more accurate to say that John Carpenter’s Vampires is suggested by John Steakley’s Vampires. (You can read my review of the book here.) They really have little in common.
They both start from the premise of a team of vampire hunters led by Jack Crow (played by James Woods in the movie). One mission goes badly resulting in the death of most of his team and Crow wants payback. The book then becomes a psychological study of Crow and his team including backstory on the members. The movie dispenses with most of that nuance and just goes for lots of action and melodramatic plot twists.
When I first saw the movie, I really loved the opening. I particularly liked the American Southwest as a setting for a vampire movie. That was quite unusual at the time. The rest of the movie was undistinguished although I like Woods’ performance. Overall, I preferred the book, although it had it’s own weaknesses. They both get mild recommendations. Maybe I’ll get the chance to re-watch the sequel with Jon Bon Jovi and review that here.
Way back here, I talked about how rare it is to find comedy horror movies that are actually funny. Until recently, the funniest horror movie I had seen was “Shaun of the Dead” But I just caught a similar movie “Juan of the Dead” and it’s even funnier.
Juan of the Dead is more like a cross between Shaun of the Dead and Ghostbusters. When a zombie outbreak threatens Havana, a group of lowlife street hustlers open a business to kill your walking dead relatives for a fee. What makes the movie hilarious is the many funny scenes scattered throughout. What makes the movie fascinating is that it was shot in Cuba and mocks the Cuban government and society.
I saw this movie on HBO where it is on demand until the end of April (better hurry). Or you can buy it from Amazon since you’ll want to see it again and again. Be warned, it has a lot of adult content and isn’t suitable for the kiddies. And I apologize for this post that has nothing to do with vampires. Don’t worry, the next one will.
My last post gave my list of the best vampire books I’ve read since starting this blog. What do they have in common? Pretty much, nothing. Four of them aren’t even primarily about vampires. Some are humorous, some are horror, some are mysteries, some are science fiction, some are family dramas. Some are written by fantasy authors, some are written by mainstream writers dabbling in fantasy. Some are series, some are one-shots. The vampires in them are noble, evil or conflicted.
What I’m getting at is the enormous range of possibilities within the genre “vampire fiction”. You’d think I’d get bored reading this one genre. (Actually, I also read a lot of non-fiction.) But arguing that vampires are such a limited topic that will quickly exhaust it’s possibilities is like saying the same thing about detective fiction, love stories or coming-of-age stories. A talented author can always find fresh stories to tell.