Monday, July 18, 2005

Review of Vampire Junction

Just before the weekend and the coming of Harry Potter, which I am currently devouring, I finished Vampire Junction. As a part of my "summer of the vampire," not to be confused with the Summer of George, Vampire Junction was certainly a worthy successor to The Historian. VJ was much closer to a traditional vampire book, especially in its approach to the legend. It had plenty of gore, and it really dealt well in the later stages of the story with the horror of seeing one's entire family turned into vampires. In fact, that part of the book, which was set in a small town in Idaho, was probably its strong point. The desolation of the winter landscape combined with the near complete vampirization of the small town are very effective.

However, before you run out and buy this book, thinking it to be a fun, run-of-the-mill fright fest, I would caution you that there are some pretty odd elements in it. I will point out the two of these that I think are the most glaring. First, the book examines the vampire legend through the lens (and jargon) of Jungian philosophy. Now, I don't know much about this field, so I didn't find the occasional meandering conversations into archetypes too distracting. If you really dislike either Jung or his philosophy, this might be a deal-breaker, though.

The second strange think about this book is that the main vampire is not only twelve years old, but he's also a pop star. Sound familiar? I thought so too, but it appears that S. P. Somtow beat Anne Rice to this idea by about a year. From what I can tell, VJ came out originally in 1984, while The Vampire Lestat burst onto the scene in 1985. So in one decade we have little Timmy Valentine in VJ crooning the song "Vampire Junction" ("it will suck your soul away"), and Lestat doing whatever he does in his self-titled book (I have to admit that I only know that Lestat was a rock star because I saw the movie Queen of the Damned, which actually defied my expectations and turned out to be halfway decent. I liked the music, especially Disturbed. Anyway, I don't feel guilty for not having read the book, mainly because I don't particularly care for Anne Rice. I read Interview with the Vampire, and while it had some attraction because of her unique style, I just didn't really like her vampires. To be blunt, I found them lame.). Thus, VJ is definitely not a by-the-numbers work.

I wrote in the summer of the vampire post that Robert Bloch had called this book "the closest thing to a nightmare ever put on paper." Was he right? Sadly, I think the answer is "no." VJ had a lot going for it: good characters, solid plot, disorienting-but-still-followable writing style, but it did fall just short of such high praise. Whether it is the strange psychological musings or (probably) Timmy's desire to explore his emotions (yikes), the book never quite rises to the level that I think it could have. In conclusion, I would rate Vampire Junction as a very solid entry in the genre, well-worth reading, as long as your expectations are at least somewhat tempered.


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