Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Return of the Vampires

Here are 3 sequels to big vampire novels. (By big I mean you're likely to hear of them even if you're not a paranormal reader - two of them are also big as in hefty, but that's a good thing.)

Justin Cronin's The Twelve is the second in The Passage trilogy. The Passage was published pre-Overreader, but trust me when I say that the night I stayed up until 4 a.m. reading it because Icouldn't put it down is burned like post-apocalyptic fire in my mind. (I ain't even saying so because I know the author. But I do know the author. It's not through him I got the advance copy, though - his publisher has me on a list from back when I did reviews for the Houston Chronicle. Still, I'm going to his launch party in Houston on Friday, so full disclosure on the amount of gushing I'm about to do.)
Anyway. I listened to the first book earlier this year, because I wanted to be caught up on all the action. Turns out I didn't need to, since Cronin starts with a clever and effective Book of Genesis-style prologue recapping The Passage. We're then thrown into the action, tracking various displaced First Colony residents, mostly in Texas, as well as going back to the beginnings of the viral outbreak that spread vampirism to start with. Here's the basic thing: while The Passage was a headlong hurtle, almost manic and full of terror and raw survivalist emotion, The Twelve is one of those conspiracy theorist's crazy rooms full of maps and post-it notes and yarn strung from one pinpoint to another. Just enough time has passed for the survivors to have established governments and routines, just enough is now known about what caused the Virals, that Peter and Alicia and Amy and the rest are forced to be politic negotiators as well as adventuring warriors. There is a lot about faith and prayer and higher powers, a lot about corruption and willful ignorance and the futility of acting both within the system and outside of it. Also, there are a lot of people being killed, loved ones being ripped away, desperate hopes for reunion, terror, sadness. So, yeah. It's great.

Also great, but about a very different kind of vampires, is Deborah Harkness's Shadow of Night. This is the follow-up to A Discovery of Witches, which I raved about when it was my 100th book last year. This begins where that left off - with Diana and Matthew, the witch and vampire odd couple taking the academic and non-human worlds by storm, leaping into the past so that Diana can search for a missing book of spells. Kit Marlowe isn't too happy to see her (he has a crush on Matthew) but Sir Walter Raleigh and the rest of the Elizabethans are helpful. Except the suspicious witches who don't understand her hanging out with vampires. And the demons who want to run their spy network without all the attention she's garnering. And the vampires whose turf she's invading. I loved how damned uncomfortable Diana found the whole experience: the clothing, the food, the role of women. She went from being a historian entrenched in the ideas of the time to being a participant actively excluded from engaging with those idea-makers, and watching her find her place in this world, especially when Matthew's vampire nature was let loose to shine in all kinds of new-to-her ways, was compelling. The setting - and ability to connect with his father again - also gave Matthew a whole cocoons worth of layers through which he had to struggle to emerge as a true husband and partner to Diana. Harkness handles both of their journeys with deep understanding of her characters and a fine grasp of how to make their time-jumped reality mold them individually and as a couple. I can't wait to see what she does to them in the final book of the trilogy.

These last vampires, I don't have so much to say about. Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series is the basis for True Blood, which I've never seen since I don't have premium cable. Living Dead in Dallas is the second book, after Dead Until Dark, and I will say that it is much better written than the first. This series has a fun set-up (Louisiana mind-reader bar waitress meets and falls for undead local boy, much murdering and vendetta-having and bleeding ensue) and I didn't pick them up expecting great literature. Still, I found the first one clunky and badly edited, and those issues improved in the second. And stayed better in the third - so, yes, I'm a series completest, it's one of the reasons I've posted so little lately, since I've been reading more in series I've already blogged about. The Sookie books are easy downloads from my library, and I'll probably keep throwing them on the Kindle because, you know, why not. But on the other hand, now that I've experienced them and get the whole vibe, why? 

1 comment:

  1. re: Living Dead in Dallas. Haven't read it and don't intend to, but I do like the title. It makes me think of this year's Cowboys football team.