So I have a small confession to make. I actually do like vampire lit. Well, I should clarify. I like GOOD vampire lit. The kind that hasn’t forgotten vampires are supposed to be rather nasty at times, not go out in daylight, and have some pretty awesome mythology in general. Sadly, it has been awhile since I found a good vampire read. The one I finished this weekend had potential and then, well, turned out to be kind of lame.
I first watched the original Dracula one Halloween season when TCM or AMC, one of the classic movie channels, did a Monster Marathon. The original Dracula movie is so awesome – extremely dated but awesome. I first read Bram Stroker’s Dracula when I took a Ghosts and Goths class while I was in England and adored it. It’s not scandalous by any stretch of the imagination these days but there is something fascinating about seeing a myth at its origins. You sit there and think “what a cliche” and then remember it’s cliche because of the novel you are reading. I am nerd – I adore that!
So, I stumbled into vampire lit from Dracula. Anne Rice was of course the first stop and her books inherit the tradition of vampire lore while updating and morphing the myth into something new and interesting. I’m not a big fan of first person books in general (I am nosy, I prefer to have a narrator that can tell me a lot more info or a book that gives me a lot of different narrators) so The Vampire Chronicles are fun but not favorites. I loved Maggie Shayne’s series of stories following a growing family of vampires. I liked how Shayne expanded the myth in all different directions, including creating an evil government agency that is hunting them. Somehow things are just better when there is an evil government agency to root against. I’ve read other one offs and updates but most don’t stand out.
I had high hopes of the book I finished over the weekend, Acquainted with the Night. It sounded like someone took The Da Vinci Code and added vampires which is a cool idea but the execution lacked here. For one thing, the characters were very flat. Only a few characters receive a decent backstory to explain their current actions and those are even kind of weak. It’s a very black and white book – people are clearly either good or evil – which doesn’t really work for the story which is flirting with the fact that not all vampires are pure evil, that like any species, there are good and bad eggs. Mainly, it was a book that couldn’t sell the grey area it was trying to work within. The pace of the story was good; it certainly moves quickly from place to place but the “puzzle” solving piece of it was lackluster and I would have liked more puzzles, more mystery. Maybe then I wouldn’t have noticed the flaws in the main characters so much.
Because, well, the heroine and hero are just sort of…blah. The heroine is whiny and really rather dumb. One of those heroines you spend the entire book yelling at. Don’t do that! Don’t go that way! Are you an idiot – DON’T TELL HIM THAT! It gets really old after awhile. And a bit exhausting. You wonder how a heroine who is supposed to be smart can be that consistently dumb and still make it alive to the end of the novel. Her hero is a bit better – at least he was supposed to be smart and consistently acted like it. He was prejudiced but he was consistent about it so I could deal with him. That said, he was a very flat hero – I didn’t much care if he made it to the end of the novel either. In fact, I wasn’t much invested in any character. The bad guys seemed to be bad because they could be – the mastermind behind the whole problem of the novel was really just a crabby guy with too much money who had an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. What made him scary was his vampire hunchmen, really bad, nasty guys who are apparently very bad and nasty because they are vampires? Like I said, the grey area of the book didn’t really work…
I wish my thoughts were more clear about this book. On one level, it does take the Rice influence on the vampire myth and expand on it a bit but for the most part, it just got bogged down in its own issues. It’s a long book – the author had plenty of time to develop the characters and tap into the vampire myth but it got caught up in its love story (way too much…it was kind of ridiculous) and then failed to follow through on its own themes. I guess I shall have to continue to look for a good vampire read because this was not it.