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Shelf Indulgence

Books. Reviews.

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Aftermath
Chuck Wendig
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Samuel R. Delany
Jackals
Charles L. Grant

The Literary Freud

The Literary Freud - Perry Meisel For the first time, I get to review a book that was written by someone I know! There’s something really cool about that, partly because I once entertained the idea of being a writer, and partly because I want Alex to be successful as a writer. Am I attempting to live vicariously through his success? Maybe. This might be as close as I get to living that dream myself.

Anyway, this book was a good one for me to start with, since it’s horror-related. It’s set in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1970s, and the story centers on a vampire who revives after having been killed near the turn of the 20th century. The theme that orbits the story involves the racial tensions of the times, and it’s illustrated well by contrasting the vampire, a nobleman with very old ways of thinking, with the modern, street-savvy vampires of the 1970s, some of whom are black. I can appreciate a genre novel that tries to give itself some gravity, so I was looking forward to reading the book for a number of different reasons.

I was easily hooked, and the story flowed well enough to allow me to finish the book in a day. I found a few spots that didn’t ring true with me, but overall it was a decent read, and the perfect sort of book for reading on vacation. I had some issues with the dialog right at the start, but the opening scene focused on Zginsky, the vampire from 1915, and I figured it was supposed to be a product of its time. Later, though, the jive-talking black vampires took me out of the story too often, just because it seemed so stereotypical. Is that really how folks like that talked in Memphis in the 1970s? And even if it was, is that how the readers expect them to talk?

I also found it hard to sympathize with any of the characters. At first, it seemed to be a case of rooting for the vampires. Then, the sympathies shifted and it seemed to be about rooting for the humans. Nope, that didn’t work, either, because the main human character goes and does something terribly vile, and the sympathies shift again. Whoops, hold on, now the vampires are the bad guys again … no, now the humans? After all the back-and-forth, it was hard to keep track of who I was supposed to be rooting for, and it caused confusion and, ultimately, frustration. I’m all for playing around with a reader’s expectations and catching them off guard, but this seemed to be a little too much.

Overall, though, the story was readable and compelling, enough so that I’m willing to forgive what I didn’t like about the book in the hopes that the author’s future books will get better; as near as I can tell, this was his first published novel, and those tend to be a little clunky. Plus, I doubt anyone picking up the book is looking for something akin to War and Peace, and the book is still a decent way to kill an afternoon in the sun.