Monday, April 28, 2008

Hal Duncan - Die! Vampire! Die! (Novella Review)

Die! Vampires! Die! is a previously unpublished novella by Hal Duncan, now available as a free download on his blog “Notes From The Geek Show” (link). The novella has only some fifty odd pages, so it’s a fairly quick read and I have to say that I found it immensely entertaining, wondrous and unusual.
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The idea for the story is quite trite and absurd at the same time. Duncan’s tale leans heavily on the common vampire mythos, but it is reshaped ingeniously to suit the needs of the story – Duncan plays with different superstitions about vampires that have been (over)used within the horror and urban fantasy genre. It would be safe to say that Duncan mocks the creatures themselves as well as the (current) fascination with vampires in genre literature. But this is irrelevant to the fact that the story is intelligent, funny and it stands on its own merit.
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The story begins when a vampire comes to visit his old friend that happens to run an enormous underground “testing” facility. You see, the host vampire believes himself to be the new Einstein, but rather reminds of a mixture between the mad Victor Frankenstein and the utterly immoral dr.Josef Mengele. We follow the scientist as he gives his acquaintance a tour of the underground facility step-by-step. The place is full of convulsed testing chambers and filthy human and zombie (shabti) breeding pens. The wannabe scientist is of course happy to oblige the guest with all kinds of demonstrations as he continues with his lecturing. During the presentation he also discloses the superior motive for the conduct of experiments - the old garde of vampires are too old fashioned; vampires have to embrace science in order to adapt and survive. Duncan does not so much subvert the myths that are built around vampires, but rather rationalizes the superstitions that lie at the heart of the matter (are the vampires really “undead”; how does one kill a vampire?; the accumulation of the holy-water in the atmosphere; etc.).
---"Well, yes, you'll know yourself from practical experience. Give me a child for seven nights and I'll give you the slave, as they say. ---And this one here. Ten feeds, I think. Totally submissive, totally subservient and - Silence! Yes, that's one of the things we've found. After eight or so feeds on consecutive nights they start to get a bit too submi -- I said, SILENCE! - a bit too submissive. ---The death fixation kicks in and you get all the endless whining and begging to be killed. Master this. Master that. It really gets quite tiresome. So...needy." ---(page 12-13)

This is the first text I’ve read by Hal Duncan, but know I finally know what the reviews of his acclaimed novel "Vellum" and its follow-up "Ink" meant when describing Duncan’s writing as intelligent and witty. Some of the reviews accuse him of being overindulgent with his imagination and impressive learning in a way that makes his writing incoherent and disjointed at times, but I assure you that this doesn’t happen here – the concise nature of novella as a prose narrative really helps writers to retain their focus from wandering. Duncan chose an unconventional, albeit a very effective, narrative method to tell the story – monologue (he uses it from the first to the last word). The scientist…ermm…vampire is quite talkative and explains everything that is going on, even the unheard words uttered by other characters are addressed by our vampire in such self-explanatory manner, that the reader does not miss out on anything important.
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Not to spoil the ending, let me just say that it includes an unexpected turn of events with disloyal subjects, the guest, the host and “the old man” (a vampire who created both of the younger vampires, which in turn rebelled against him and locked him up in a basement). Ingenious stuff. Read it.
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~ Thrinidir ~

1 Comment:

daydream said...

Nice, one. I downloaded it too and I am officially loaded with reading material until the end of summer. YEY!

 

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