**spoiler alert** I read this over the duration of a short plane ride, having been drawn in by the hilarity of Sands' titles (Single White Vampire, Va**spoiler alert** I read this over the duration of a short plane ride, having been drawn in by the hilarity of Sands' titles (Single White Vampire, Vampires are Forever) and also the dee-lightful potential of a vampire/romance genre mashup, which is, oddly, a direction I hadn't gone before in my reading.
I liked the book fine, but I didn't love it. Sands definitely gets points for having one of the most bonkers vampire origin myths that I've ever read, namely that vampires are the descendants of escaped citizens of Atlantis, an erstwhile technological superpower whose use of bio-nanotechnology (or nano-biotechnology?) lead to them to develop hyperactive 'nanos.' These, ' in turn, give them the basic vampiristic characteristics: the need to drink blood, the sensitivity to sunlight, eternal(-ish) life, etc. She also inserts some nice tweaks in the mythology, such as that her vampires are governed by local councils who strictly enforce the few laws that they must live by (only drinking 'bagged blood' unless in case of emergency, 'allergies,' or 'love bites'; only turning one person in their lifetime; a vampire knows she's has found her 'life mate' when she can't read the person's mind), and they are also able to eat food and take pleasure from it (I was pleased with this; it's always seemed like a raw deal that vampires have to give up food).
There was also some good backstory and some nice twists (the main character 'turns herself' when being attacked by a vampire), but the progression of the relationship between the romantic leads felt rushed and pretty cursory, as did the wrap-up to the plot. I actually found the secondary characters (Aunt Marguerite and Tiny) more engaging and their relationship far more developed....more
So continues my Sookie Stackhouse binge, although I am definitely petering out. I haven't read this many books in a series this fast since I was probaSo continues my Sookie Stackhouse binge, although I am definitely petering out. I haven't read this many books in a series this fast since I was probably about 12. Reading the same author back to back can be a good way to immerse yourself in a fictional mileu, but it also ensures that you notice all the prose ticks and vocab quirks (oft-repeated words or turns of phrase, for instance) and can get a little tiring.
All the same, I think I liked the story here better than in Living Dead in Dallas. And I like that Sookie's adventures have been taking her outside of Bon Temps and expanding the world and supernatural hierarchies. The conceits are getting a bit thinner--Bill's kidnapping is a bit of a MacGuffin, honestly--but the secondary characters continue to be interesting, particularly as they are better developed, and they are making Bill look a bit blah. As such, it's also nice that Sookie's relationship with Bill is not treated as a forever-and-always given: I like the troubled relationship aspect.
I needed a brain break while studying for finals and writing papers, and this book--which I read over the course of two days—-was ideal for such a purI needed a brain break while studying for finals and writing papers, and this book--which I read over the course of two days—-was ideal for such a purpose. I didn't like it as much as the first book in the series, but the addition of new supernatural beings was enjoyable, and the introduction of the Fellowship (the church group bent on destroying vampires) was clever. I find Bill a bit blah as a character, so having Eric become more of a character was also a plus.
This book was perhaps even more "fluff" than the first in the series, but it was just what I was in the mood for at the time. ...more
This was assigned for the vampire class I am taking this semester and I was extremely skeptical, due in great part to how much I loathed the first insThis was assigned for the vampire class I am taking this semester and I was extremely skeptical, due in great part to how much I loathed the first installment of Harris' Aurora Teagarden series. But I'm glad I gave this one a chance—it was not only a rather enjoyable read, it also has some interesting things going on below the surface. My professor pointed out that almost no scholarship has been done on the Sookie Stackhouse series, although plenty is out there on True Blood, the TV-version, and also on books like Twilight. I looked around a bit myself and found nearly nothing academic on the series, which did strike me as odd.
Something else that struck me while reading: here we have yet another vampire novel (the other example that comes immediately to mind being L.J. Smith's Vampire Diaries) which preceded the publication of Twilight and shares many major plot/character points. The brooding, paternalizing protector Vampire boyfriend, the (male) friend who shape-shifts (into a dog) and also has feelings for the female lead. In Twilight, there seems to be a flip of Sookie's ability to read minds (except for Bill's): there Edward reads all minds except for Bella's. The ending scene in the hospital, the secret, well-organized and more nefarious vampire cadre...all these things are rather interesting similarities, I think, given that Meyers has claimed often that she just came up with Twilight out of the blue, and didn't know anything about vampire mythology or other novels in the genre....more
I joined Media Bistro's 2012 Literary Remix Competition to rewrite a page of this book which would then, if I'm selected, be recombined with pages wriI joined Media Bistro's 2012 Literary Remix Competition to rewrite a page of this book which would then, if I'm selected, be recombined with pages written by other people in other styles. Since there is a free download of the book available via Project Gutenberg, I might as well check out the book in its entirety, just in time for Halloween. ...more
First published in Russia in 1998 and later adapted in a popular film in 2004, Sergei Lukyanenko's vastly entertaining novel Night Watch introduces readers to a parallel reality (centered in Moscow) in which good and evil constantly struggle to maintain a fragile truce, the disruption of which would literally mean the end of the world. This parallel realm, the Twilight, is visible only to Others--vampires, witches, magicians, shape shifters, and even particularly adept computer programmers--who have all pledged their allegiance to either the Light or the Dark. Light and Darkness monitor each other's activities by way of their espionage-style agencies or "watches" (The Night Watch monitors the Dark Ones, and vice versa). While average people go about their days, the Others in both watches have their own responsibilities, namely complex operations and missions which might incrementally shift the balance, once and for all, to one triumphant morality.
Without any preamble or exposition, Lukyanenko drops the reader into a remarkably complex world with remarkably complex rules, histories, and problems. The three interconnected novella-length stories which comprise the novel--all narrated by the disillusioned but still idealistic systems analyst and low-level magician Anton Gorodetsky--are chronological, but there are significant time lapses between each tale. Rather than disrupting the narrative, these gaps actually reinforce the reality of this world: the characters all have lives and pasts that exist outside of the bounds of the novel.
The first story, "Destiny," is by far the best, following Anton as he faces off with rogue vampires, identifies a young Other who isn't yet aware of his own remarkable powers, and attempts to dispel a curse which, if left unchecked, has the potential to ignite another world war. The tale's twisty storyline and fast pace have the feel of a particularly entertaining episode of an action-drama on TV: there's romance, there's danger, there's an epic roof-top battle between dark magicians and hostage-taking vampires--when suddenly everything resolves itself quickly and cleanly, if a bit ironically.
"Destiny" is followed by "Among His Own Kind," in which Anton is wrongly accused of murdering several dark magicians and, in order to clear his name, has one night to track down a 'Maverick' Light One on a homicidal rampage in Moscow. Among His Own Kind picks up threads of the the previous story, while upping the ante for action and creatively employed magical sleights of hand.
Unfortunately, Lukyanenko loses steam in the last story, "All For My Own Kind," in which Anton spends far too much time lamenting the concessions that the Light must make in order to maintain the cosmic balance (apparently Communism failed due to a "little compromise with the Darkness"), and moaning about the futility of trying to save humanity from itself. (There's also an excess of insipid Goth song lyrics throughout this installment.)
Nevertheless, with its labyrinthine storylines and abundance of fantastical creatures, this layered morality tale certainly delivers for the Halloween season. And avid fans will be able to further immerse themselves in the Twilight if they so wish: Night Watch is the first in a tetralogy of novels which follow Anton and other characters through their continued misadventures. ...more
I picked this up during my YA vampire binge (which I began for a class paper). Basically, I was intrigued by the fact that it's narrated by a male chaI picked this up during my YA vampire binge (which I began for a class paper). Basically, I was intrigued by the fact that it's narrated by a male character which--someone correct me if I'm wrong--I believe is relatively rare (Peeps notwithstanding). Also, the set up--French vampire in-crowd = high school vampires / human-vampire romance poo-pahed by vampire parents--sounded pretty gleeful and campy. And honestly, it is. It just isn't really about vampires--at least, doesn't seem to be by the 5th chapter. I'm calling this one early on account of my being a little burned out on young adult blood sucking at the moment.
I mean, yes, the main character has a vampire girlfriend and vampire friends, but they go to high school and seem to go out during the daylight and also apparently do drink human blood, but don't kill people. (It's a little unclear--I am jumping into the middle of the series and while the plots of several of the preceding novels have been summarized over the course of the first 50 pages, some of the basic elements really have not been cleared up.) Mostly, the book starts with some residual drama from the previous book (vampire hunters stalking the girlfriends), an ill-fated yacht trip (because you know, the vampires are waaay rich), a human friend who sometimes adorably, sometimes annoyingly makes it very clear that he's a 'movie guy' (he mentions Baz Luhrman, Heathers, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I and II, Top Gun,Saw III etc. within the first few chapters), and, of course, the disapproving vampire parents totally ruining things by telling their vampire daughter that she can't date a human boy.
But when you get down to it, it's really just a novel about high schoolers' dating lives. Which is fine. Just not what I set out to read. I read someone call this series 'Vampire Lite," which might be accurate. But if you just like to see supernatural beings doing totally normal things (at least normal by Malibu, California standards), then this is the series for you.
Okay--so while Eternal was also part of my YA vampire research spree, I also picked it up because I have it from a very well-informed source that whilOkay--so while Eternal was also part of my YA vampire research spree, I also picked it up because I have it from a very well-informed source that while vampires on are on the outs with teen readers, fallen angels are the new big thing (can anyone confirm or deny this?). So this book seemed like the perfect transition and also promised oodles of melodramatic campy-ness. In brief: a teenage girl goes to a cemetery with her best friend one night and almost dies by falling and breaking her neck in an open grave. Unable to bear the death of his ward, her guardian angel (oh yeah--she has one of those) blinds her with his radiance (or "fully glory," technically) and so instead of dying, she is actually kidnapped by the current Dracula and turned into a vampire princess who lives in Chicago. The guardian angel is then booted from heaven by a more important angel for breaking the rules and has to become his former protectee's servant in Castle Dracula while trying to also redeem her soul. Awesome, right? Well, Kinda.
On one hand, the book is extremely campy. Leitich Smith has a real sense of humor and peppers her book with the sort of ironic, self-aware disparities that are really amusing and enjoyable in a book like this. For instance, the vampires--known here as "eternals" have a press network and love gossip and go on publicity tours. They have special credit cards and speak in extremely formal Legosi-esque language. This is good because a book like this would be god-awful if it took itself too seriously.
However--and this is especially emphasized because of the whole guardian angel thing--this book gets a little heavy handed with its Christian motif and also plays directly into my least favorite character trend in vampire novels--the Paternal Protector trend(as I am hereby dubbing it). I'll qualify:
It's not that the book feels like secret Christian propaganda because it has an angel in it. It's actually infused in the whole underlying moral structure. You could have a book with an angel in it that didn't trumpet Christian theology, after all. But consider:
1. The main character, Miranda, is basically born into sin, even though she technically hasn't done anything wrong. She is turned into a vampire against her will and so becomes evil, but it's not really a choice she's made from the outset. So the whole original sin thing.
2. After she becomes a vampire, she behaves in traditionally evil vampire ways. She mistreats her human servants. She drinks people's blood and kills them. But once her guardian angel arrives, she begins to try and control her most powerful urges and desires--her sinful nature. She begins to drink animal blood instead of human blood, for instance. So the whole denying one's sinful nature thing.
3. It becomes clear that even though Miranda is a vampire, her soul is not completely lost. She can, in fact, be redeemed, but it has to be something that she herself wants to happen. She has to turn her back on her vampire life and choose goodness. So we've got a two-fer here: the whole free will thing and the whole unconditional love thing. No sinner is so far gone that he cannot be redeemed, as long as he makes the choice to repent, etc.
I could keep going, but that covers the main points. I did a little research to find out if Leitich Smith is a proclaimed Christian author. Like another Stephanie Meyers, working in paranormal/fantasy genres but maintaining Christian ethics and morals. It wouldn't really matter, but I would be interested in knowing if this underlying morality was truly intentional, or just works out this way. I wasn't able to turn anything up, though. The back of the book includes a list of books which she took inspiration from or referenced within Eternal, but most are, I believe, secular books. And her website doesn't indicate that she is a specifically Christian author, so who's to say. But the themes are there, irregardless.
As for the Paternal Protector thing:
Okay, I'm tired of books where teenage girls are courted and loved deeply by much older male characters who vascillate between sexualizing them and protecting/advising/admonishing them like a father. There is, of course, Meyer's Edward, who has probably damaged teen perceptions of romantic relationships forever. In the Twilight series, Edward fills out Bella's college applications, he tells her not to drink so much caffeine, he protects her from scary bad guys, and monitors who she sees and where she goes (it's verrry dangerous out there in Forks, Washington, after all.) But then at the same time, he watches her when she sleeps and literally talks of wanting to devour her because she is so crazy-attractive to him.
Here, the guardian angel, Zachary, tells us on the first page that he watches "his girl" shower and change--that the hot summer day when she lay naked on her bed reading all day was basically a highlight of his existence. Later, he tells us that he saves her from falling because he has fallen in love with her. But he also is completely disapproving of her lifestyle and tries to correct her behavior constantly. Okay--this part is obvious because he's an angel and she's a vampire, sure. But read this passage and tell me that this isn't crossing the dad line a teensy tiny bit:
"I was there when Miranda took her first breath. Her baptism. Her first step. On her first day of school and when she had the chicken pox. In the middle school girl's locker room when Denise Durant made fun of her bra size...That night...I realized that she wasn't a little girl anymore and I didn't just love her. I was in love with her, too.
This happens throughout the book. And it's a bit disturbing. What kinds of standards are we setting, really? Why are so many of these books in this particular genre so forceful in the way that they encourage young girls to seek out adult men (father figures) to not only love and protect them, but to make decisions for them? To turn them into better people? These aren't partnerships in any sense of the word, nor are they--in my opinion--terribly functional examples of romantic relationships. I'd happily go back to the aggravating pandering of 'Girl Power' to get rid of this current spree of infantalizing romance dynamics. ...more
I started listening to the audio book of Glass Houses and got through the first four chapters, but I don't think I'm going to continue. For one, I fouI started listening to the audio book of Glass Houses and got through the first four chapters, but I don't think I'm going to continue. For one, I found the narrator to be a little irksome--she speaks in a sort of clipped, over-enunciated, overly dramatic-effect-for-commercials sort of way, and all of her male characters (with their deeper "man voices") sound like stoners for no apparent reason. But I could have gotten over that had I liked the book better.
From the little I've "read," Glass Houses presented several issues for me. I'll list (I so like lists):
1. The 'mean-girl' dynamic that Caine sets up between her precocious 16 year old brainiac of a protagonist and the town's college-attending, town-terrifying vampires is far more akin to a high school dynamic than one between young women in college. College-age women may still try and humiliate and/or harm other women--especially those perceived as rivals--but I'm not seeing the whole 'we dumped your laundry down the trash chute' thing. This world seems like a boarding school, not a college.
2. Even a stupid vampire should know what World War II was about. Assuming that this is not a brand new vampire (and maybe she is--I may not have gotten far enough), I feel like she should be old enough to remember this. I don't think you prove much about your main character's intelligence by having her show up the vampire by explaining that WWII was "about Pearl Harbor."
3. The fact that Claire is marked at the very beginning of the book as a threat to Monica (the vampire meanie) and is being searched for throughout town, and yet is apparently going to continue to go to class instead of going home is based on extremely flimsy logic that even the characters in the book don't seem to buy into and seems like a cheap way to continue one's plot.
I'll leave it at that, but for the record, I did really like the Goth roommate with her Hot Topic outfits and working-at-the-coffee shop schtick, and general banter with her male roommates. If the book were about her, I might be more inclined to continue. ...more
When I started The Silver Kiss, I was definitely skeptical. The story starts awkwardly, with neither Zoe (the teen love interest), nor Simon (the terrWhen I started The Silver Kiss, I was definitely skeptical. The story starts awkwardly, with neither Zoe (the teen love interest), nor Simon (the terribly named vampire stalker cum pining boyfriend) seems entirely fleshed out in the first chapters, which jump back and forth between their respective narrations. Zoe over-articulates her struggles with her mother's terminal illness in effort to get the backstory out, and Simon describes her from afar as "Pale as the milk of death, thin and sharp like pain," which, well, is almost cutely dramatic, but mostly just sounds like the way vampires talk in really horrible movies. (Oh, and at one point he "mark[s:] his territory like a wolf, and urinate[s:] on the back steps" of Zoe's house, later leaving a trinket for her which she picks up not so long after that we've forgotten the whole peeing there thing.) So no points at the beginning.
However, I have to admit, once the character/plot establishing is out of the way, the book vastly improves and I really started enjoying it. Klause actually utilizes vampire mythology, which I get a huge kick out of: her vampires are sensitive to light (yeah, we thought this was standard until they started sparkling), they are burned/blinded by crucifixes, can transfigure into mist and bats (and do this often), have to wait to be invited into someone's home, and so on. Nicely enough, while Klause's vampires can subsist on animal blood (as Simon does), they are all too admitting of the fact that they take pleasure from drinking human blood. Simon may be a "good" vampire (he doesn't kill his human prey, and makes the experience pleasant for them--more on that anon), but there is still a darkness to him. He overpowers and attacks a group of teen hoodlums who jump him in a park, for instance. He gives Zoe the titular "Silver Kiss" and bites her the first time she lets him in her house.
Moreover, Simon has an ultra dramatic back story, fraught with sibling rivalry and matricide and haunts playgrounds and hangs around suburban neighborhoods stalking a vampire child (a la Interview with the Vampire) who is viciously murdering neighborhood women.
So suddenly we have a complicated, rather engaging plot to invest in. And, even better, an adorable little goth romance blooms between Zoe and Simon, as they bond over the pain of death and losing one's mother. Consider a conversation they have on a bus on the way to see Zoe's mother in the hospital:
"I didn't mean to trivialize your mother's death. I know it matters. Every death matters."
They were silent for a while, as the bus lurched through the night.
"At first," he finally said, "you think--no, hope--it might be a dream. That you'll wake up, and it will have been just a nightmare."
Zoe turned sharply to look at him. Was he mocking her? But his gaze was far away, not even on her.
"You think she'll be there," he continued, "pulling the curtains to let in the sun, wishing you good morning."
"Yes, how did you know?"
His eyes snapped into focus, catching the light like broken glass. "What kind of son would I be, not to know?"
She blushed stupidly and couldn't seem to find a natural position for her hands to settle in. He'd lost his mother, too. "Yes, of course."
"You forgot," he said in a gentler voice.
She nodded, embarrassed. "But I felt that way, too, or like maybe it was a cruel joke, and everyone would confess to it real soon."
"And then the anger," he said, as if it were inevitable. "Anger at her for going away."
"For ruining our lives," she joined in.
"At God," he said.
"At everyone around, for not understanding, for not having it happen to them."
It goes on from there, but you get the gist. The book's main energy is derived in great part from the parallel between Zoe and Simon's circumstances, their existential musings on death, and their eventual acceptance of it as a painful, but inevitable, part of life.
The other source of momentum here is obviously--and I know I always get back to this, but still--the book's sexual tension. Zoe is a pretty innocent girl when the book starts--Klause makes a point of emphasizing her lack of interest in boys--but after meeting Simon, things start picking up, albeit still rather chastely. During a conversation about his past, Simon bites Zoe:
"...it was no good; she was too near, too inviting. The fangs slid from their sheaths...Then he kissed her with the sharp sleek kiss, the silver kiss, so swift and true, and razor sharp, and her warmth was flowing into him. He could feel it seeping through his body--warmth, sweet warmth.
She uttered a small, surprised cry and fought him for a second, but he stroked her hair and caressed her. I won't hurt you, he thought...And he moaned and slipped her arms around him. It was the tender ecstasy of the kissed that he could send her with his touch. It throbbed through his fingers, through his chest, like the blood through her veins. It thrummed a rhythm in him that he shared with her. She sighed, her breath came harder, and he felt himself falling."
If that doesn't sound like teenage hormones, I don't know what does. It's actually the only seen of it's kind, though. For most of the book, Simon and Zoe shyly exchange little pecks on the lips, "real kisses."
Complaints: The plot resolves with an overly-complicated and almost cartoonish scheme, several of the references seem a little anachronistic for the 90s, when the book was written (record player, ashtray on the coffee table) and though it's possible that it's meant to take place in the 70s (they listen to the Ramones on the radio), this is never really made clear. Also, the vampire child's cover story--that he's an orphan albino living with a foster family--has some definite holes, in that he seems to go out in the afternoon a few times. This is explained a little midway through the book, but not to very good effect.
But the book ends well--bittersweetly, and without Zoe deciding to become Simon's vamp companion for the rest of eternity. All in all, a somewhat flawed, but still very enjoyable entry in the YA vampire genre.
I picked up In the Forests of the Night at the same time that I found Vivian Vande Velde's Companions of the Night and read both books within weeks ofI picked up In the Forests of the Night at the same time that I found Vivian Vande Velde's Companions of the Night and read both books within weeks of each other. This title, however, did not stand up well to competition. But rather than launch into the dissection, I'd rather point out that the book was published when Atwater-Rhodes was 13 years old, and for a vampire novel written by a 13 year old, it's pretty damn good, or at the very least, peppered with a rather lot of small endearments. Atwater-Rhodes gives her vamps alluring, arcane-sounding names like "Risika" and "Aubrey." She is very fond of words like "ambrosia," which she uses over and over. She also finds a way to sneak in a reference to a 'young writer in Concord, Massachusetts who writes "true" novels about vampires'...which is such an adorable nod to herself that I kind of wanted to hug her.
As for the book's missteps--an annoying structure which hops us between the past and the present every other chapter and a plot line that just sort of plops itself in your lap without any sort of development at all--these are, methinks, a result of the fact that Atwater-Rhodes was pretty new to the whole writing thing when this came out. In order to really critique her books, I'd probably have to read a couple of her more recent offerings (she's 25 now) and see how she's developed as an author. Not really compelled to do further reading based on In the Forests of the Night, but maybe she has a sequel series worth exploring....more
I ran across Vivian Vande Velde's (great) name in a list of popular teen vampire novelists and picked up Companions of the Night on a whim. I read itI ran across Vivian Vande Velde's (great) name in a list of popular teen vampire novelists and picked up Companions of the Night on a whim. I read it in about a day and really enjoyed it. The plot moves along at a quick clip, and while the characters do have a strong rapport, the romance element is not given much attention until the very last chapters. (Side note: I wasn't overwhelmed by these characters—they are certainly serviceable, but I didn't completely connect with them. Some of this is just because we learn a limited amount about them in the confines of the story. Kerry is given a nice backstory, but in attempting to maintain Ethan's mysteriousness, we learn very little about him, which ultimately, was unfortunate. It leaves room for lots of speculation, but honestly, one of the things I enjoy most about vampire novels is finding out about well, the vampires...)
Overall, however, what I enjoyed most about this novel is the fact that the vampires--particularly anti-hero/romantic interest Ethan--actually remain vampiric. They kill people without remorse and even admit to enjoying it. Even more interesting is the almost off-hand way in which Vande Velde embraces the sexual undertones of the vampire story—casually integrating a short conversation between Ethan and Kerry:
Ethan was speaking hesitantly, having a hard time putting this into words. “It's not just the nourishment from the blood itself...There's a physical and mental bond, a sharing of the spirit for lack of a better word...”
Kerry took in a deep breath. “I think I've heard this line from the boy who took me to the Harvest Dance.”
Ethan laughed with what sounded like genuine amusement, which was disconcerting because she hadn't meant to be funny. “There is a similarity.” He looked at her appraisingly, as though trying to gauge how experienced she was.
She folded her arms in front of her chest, determined to keep him wondering, before she realized that her gesture had probably told all.
Ethan said, “Sometimes, not always—but with the right partner—vampires mix the two acts: sex and the drinking of blood. Either of itself is...very pleasurable, but the combination...”
Parked on the side of a dark road, Kerry didn't like the direction this was taking, even though Ethan was showing no inclination to demonstrate. She said, “I'm sure praying mantises and black widow spiders feel the same.”
With 'de-fanged,' conscience-laden, human-obsessed vampire lovers becoming more of the rule than the exception, I was actually delighted to read a novel that didn't try to bridge the mortal-vampire gap. She doesn't want to be a vampire, and he doesn't want to repent of his evil ways.
Also, enjoyable is the fact that Vande Velde is an affirmed one-off novel writer. No sequels (see: http://www.vivianvandevelde.com/seque...). So while the ending of Companions leaves the story open for continuation, it's unlikely that we'll see an overwrought second and third novel of undead romance. And it's nice to see a story stand on its own once in awhile. ...more
Again--my kudos to Westerfeld for his well-wrought, fast-paced, book-in-a-day sci-fi inspired adventures. Peeps is a nice spin on the vampire genre, wAgain--my kudos to Westerfeld for his well-wrought, fast-paced, book-in-a-day sci-fi inspired adventures. Peeps is a nice spin on the vampire genre, with Westerfeld elaborating on what has become a relatively common adjustment to vampire mythology--that vampirism is a disease (see I Am Legend and Already Dead for previous examples)--and makes it his own.
In Peeps, vampirism is actually a parasite, feeding on its hosts and adjusting their behavior in order to facilitate its own procreation. Most people who come into contact with the parasite are turned within days, but a lucky few--including our intrepid protagonist, 'Cal from Texas'--are carriers. They are infected by the parasite, but are not affected by it, like Typhoid Mary.
The gist is thus: Cal comes to New York from Texas for college, but after a long night drinking novelty cocktails in a gay bar, looses his virginity in a haze of unprotected sex with a mysterious woman. Thus infected with vampirism, he then proceeds to make out with/have sex with a few unlucky ladies before someone finally catches up with him and lets him know that he is turning all of his unfortunate lovers into monsters. So now he has to go out and find all of these women before they wreak havoc on New York.
Cleverly, because Cal was supposedly a Bio major--and because his new vampire-hunting agency puts him into special crash courses in tracking techniques and understanding parasites--the book alternates between its main action and rather diverting, if not rather disgusting, discussions of parasites in the natural world. Westerfeld does a good job of integrating vampirism into this context, explaining typical vampire myths--such as a fear of crucifixes, inability to go out during the day, and even just the biting itself--in terms of natural selection, evolution, and parasitic behavior. It sets a nice tone for the book, giving the whole thing an air of possibility, and grounding well-known superstitions in far more logical, scientific fears.
A few quibbles:
This is the second Westerfeld book I've read where clever words and phrases get repeated to a sometimes annoying degree. The vocabulary is generally of a multi-syllabic, creative variety, but if the same words are used over and over, they loose their freshness really quickly.
Also, I think the 'unprotected sex is bad' theme could have actually been brought out a little. As I've said a kazillion times, I'm all for books that comfortably and reasonably approach teen sexuality, and I've generally been very pleased with Westerfeld's incorporation of sex and sexual attraction in his novels. But given that the plot hinges on this kid going around and having no-condom sex with a bunch of women, I think the ultimate consequence scenario could have reflected on this a bit more. There's a small disclaimer in the back of the book--along with helpful tips to avoid parasitic infection--but I don't actually think that the book emphasizes this enough. We don't have to necessarily beat them young people over the head with the capital M Moral, but having Cal actually show some measure of realization--"If I had worn a condom, this would not have happened"--would not have been difficult.
I’ve been calling the Twilight series a teen Harlequin, but after reading Breaking Dawn I don’t actually think that entirely covers it. It’s more of aI’ve been calling the Twilight series a teen Harlequin, but after reading Breaking Dawn I don’t actually think that entirely covers it. It’s more of a Harlequin-Soap Opera hybrid, combining the euphemistic, soft-focus of romance novels with the pacing and gasp-inducing twists-of-narrative that keep televised serial narratives going (and going and going) for decades at a time. Breaking Dawn prefers the latter ethos—doling out equal measures of lovey dovey tranquility and dead-end plot threats in a substantive effort to apparently just keep the page count up.
This book could have ended about four times before it finally got around to it, and could have ended definitively, at that. It could have grappled with more ‘realistic’ (in the scope of a vampire novel, people) complications, even. I mean, Bella does finally become a vampire (gasp!), so you’d think that any combination of the following problems could have occurred:
1. Bella develops an insatiable bloodlust for human snacks, violently eradicating her former family, friends, and small, innocent children. (This had, of course, been floated as an almost unavoidable consequence for three books, and I for one, was really looking forward to it.)
2. Bella’s parental units must deal with the untimely ‘death’ of their daughter, or at least think she’s disappeared into oblivion. Sadness is inexplicably felt by all.
3. Bella can’t adjust to her new life. Has horrible regrets. Realizes that this Edward fellow has absolutely no personality whatsoever. Is irritated by his constant paternalizing and mooning. Eats Edward in epic battle. Is sad.
4. Bella cannot suppress her new super strength and sexiness. Abandons Edward in search of more sex-positive, lusty partners. Edward weeps silently. (Is sad.)
5. Edward realizes that he’s made a horrible mistake. Bella is awful and now he’s stuck with her. For-Ev-Er. Eats her in epic battle. Is sad. But only until he finds a new teenage object-of-desire.
But none of these issues—or even more prosaic complications—ever come up. Why? Because none of these issues would fit with the Soap Opera model. Meyers wants her narrative to ebb and flow, to be immediately dramatic (her characters gasp, and turn white, and go cold, and drop things in shock with relative frequency) and then be immediately resolved. Because treating your narrative/character psyches in any other fashion would be, well, really hard. And we don’t want that do we, Steph?
I will say, though, that—yay!—Bella does finally get some. Actually, lucky girl gets to lose her virginity twice—once as a human and once as a vamp-ire—and has sublime experiences both times. (Or so she says—Meyers fades to ocean and fades to morning instead of expending the effort coming up with a nice symbolic word for Edward’s sparkling manhood.) The pre- and post-cursors to these scenes are almost worth reading for hilarity’s sake, though. Turns out, Kinkmaster Edward is one rowdy dude in the sack. And notably, a pillow-biter, when in the throws of passion.
Oh, and yes—Bella gets knocked up. Dramatizes all of my worst fears about childbearing in a supernatural, blood-drenched fashion. Her half-human/half-vampire spawn actually does start consuming her from the inside, comes to term in two weeks, and supposedly will have to chew its way out of her womb. In a birthing scene that makes Alien look like a fuzz-fest, Bella chokes on blood, has her spine broken in delivery, is C-sectioned without morphine (with a fingernail), and her husband has to rip open the baby’s placenta with his teeth. All is forgiven when Bella holds her child for the first time. The miracle of life. Horrifying.
It’s all pretty smooth sailing from there. Bella becomes graceful and talented and wields amazing mind-powers. Vampire wars are averted. Love triangles are dissolved and Bella’s super-baby girl is immediately destined to be loved forever and ever by another obsessive man.
The cycle repeats, threatens further development. Methinks that Meyers will churn out a sequel series but soon. Oh, the horror. ...more