Brad's Reviews > Those Who Hunt the Night

Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly
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Oct 19, 09

bookshelves: fantasy, horror, vampire, urban-fantasy, mystery, doing-the-dishes
Read in October, 2009

There came a turn in the vampire oeuvre -- and that turn had much to do with the Anne Rice's vampire novels -- when the inherent eroticism of vampirism, which was one of many vampiric themes, shifted into a full scale fetishization of vampire sexuality.

I don't say this to criticize totally what vampire tales have become. I remain a fan of Lestat, Louis and Armand, and I certainly dig Sookie's Bill and Eric (the less said about Bella's Edward the better), but the fetishization of vampire sexuality has become a reductive cliche in vampire literature, and each new manifestation of vampire fiction seems to carry with it an increasing hypersexuality to the detriment of other potential vampire themes, so I've found myself less and less excited by vampire tales with each incarnation.

So reading Barbara Hambly's Those Who Hunt the Night has positively rejuvenated my interest in vampire fiction, reminding me that there is much that remains unexplored and underexplored in fiction about this most human form of undead.

Hambly discards the fetishization; in fact, what sexuality there is in Those Who Hunt the Night is either between her human protagonists, Lydia and Asher, or is merely the bare minimum required by a vampire for hunting (who are, according to one of the number, basically asexual). Sexuality is incidental. And I think Hambly wants it to remain that way because the theme that most concerns her is predation.

She is concerned with the ethics of hunting to live, of killing to preserve life. She offers one complex vampire, the eminently likable Don Simon Ysidro, and a series of violent archetypes, from a violent and angry master vampire, Dr. Grippen, to a damned and guilt-ridden ex-priest, Brother Anthony. These vampires, and all the others we get a taste of, inhabit some position along an ethical continuum that runs from debilitating remorse to a pragmatic sublimation of remorse to no remorse at all. But Hambly takes things a step further and places some of her humans along the continuum too. The most important is Asher, the philologist/spy/private investigator coerced by Ysidro into hunting down a dangerous killer of London's vampires. Even Asher is forced, by his connection with and aiding of the vampires, to face his own predation and the motives he has used to justify or rationalize the actions in his past.

Hambly's thoughts on predation could have gone further, I suppose, but anything more would have been beyond the characters and their Edwardian milieu, and Hambly is a good enough writer to know that she must be true to her characters and their setting, no matter what else she is trying to achieve.

There are better vampire books than Those Who Hunt the Night, and from everything I've been hearing there are better Barbara Hambly books than Those Who Hunt the Night, but as a bit of a vampire geek, I am full of appreciation for her attempt to remind us that vampires are predators who feed on us -- as folklore has always warned us. In our fantasy worlds, vampires are on top of the food chain. And it sure sucks to be food, doesn't it?
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Reading Progress

10/15/2009 page 48
13.71% "Man...is this ever a refreshing take on Vampires." 6 comments

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Cindy You know, I agree with everything you said. Hambly created a fascinating, complicated backstory for the mythology of Vampirism. And the three main characters were wonderfully complex.

However, I found the writing to be so bad, that it kept yanking me out of the story. I had a tough time getting lost in the dark, gloomy, Edwardian imagery, because I kept cringing at some of her word choices. Not all of her language was bad, but when she would put 3 bad similes on one page, it was just too much.

OTOH, I don't read much pure fantasy, so I don't know if it's just the style of the genre that disagreed with me?


Brad I think I am pretty lucky in that I can turn off my hack writing detector/responder when there is something else to interest me (and I do think Hambly is a high end hack, thus my "good writer" comment). But it is hard to avoid Hambly's place as a hack since she does write Trek and Star Wars novels (sorry Werner).

I am so glad I am just able to enjoy...even when faced with those simile splurges, Cindy, but I can empathize with your pain, at least.


Cindy I envy you for this, Brad! Is your hack writing detector/responder by chance a tweed coat with pulp-sensor leather elbow patches, a shallow-character collar, and an awkward-romance pocket? Maybe I should take mine off.

All kidding aside, I really wanted to disappear in this book. Do you have any recommendations for other vampire stories with a unique take and better writing?


Brad Cindy wrote: "I envy you for this, Brad! Is your hack writing detector/responder by chance a tweed coat with pulp-sensor leather elbow patches, a shallow-character collar, and an awkward-romance pocket?..." Hilarious!

In all honesty I don't think you're going to find too many vampire novels with better writing. It is one of the great travesties of the genre. The writing is usually pulpy shite. I was thinking it was a good time to revisit Dracula, though.




message 5: by Suzanne (last edited Oct 19, 2009 04:39PM) (new)

Suzanne Hi Brad! ... I am Suzanne, another major Vampire lover.
I totally agree with your comments here and I really enjoyed your review. I have not read this particular book, though I am ordering it tomorrow!

Have you read, or purchased to read, 'The Strain' by Guillermo del Toro??
This knocked me out of the romantic,'pulpy shite' that you were speaking of!

The novel takes you all the way to another 'in your face' way of thinking about vampires.
I don't think I even liked this book, but it was too well-written and fascinating, to ever put down!


Libby Hey Brad,

Glad to see you have the good taste to enjoy Hambly's vampires. Altho nothing will evershake my love for Sookie and Anita Blake, my first fling with modern vamps was with Lydia and oh! is that first one memorable. Trust me, Hambly has written some amazing books and you should definitely try them. You write a fairly fine sentence yourself, which I admire.

Libby


Brad Thanks, Libby. I'd definitely read more Hambly if I stumbled upon her.


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