Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Dark Days – Review

Written by: Steve Niles

Illustrated by: Ben Templesmith

Contains spoilers

This is the sequel to 30 days of night, and is altogether a more rounded piece. The novel starts where the last book ended and again we see the immolation of Eben Olemaun. Sixteen months later Stella leaves Barrow for LA, she has written a book, entitled 30 days of night, surrounding the events in Barrow. One immediately neat piece is that Stella's book has the cover of the first graphic novel.

She arrives in LA to do a talk regarding the book, but it has been read by the vampires – something she counted on as she has assembled and trained a team of hunters. The vampires react in different ways, one group deface the memorial of Eben and steal his ashes, they intend to resurrect him and kill him again in front of her, and others intend to simply hunt her down. Worse a mysterious ancient, known as Missus, the wife of Vicente, has been drawn from her Norwegian retreat to exact her revenge on the wife of the man who killed her husband.

Also drawn to Stella is Judith Ali, the mysterious woman from New Orleans from the first novel, who has the footage of the attack on Barrow, the footage her son sacrificed his life for.

As the novel progresses Stella meets Dane, a vampire sired by Marlowe. At first he wants revenge, but he discovers that it was not Eben who killed Marlowe, but Vicente. Stella discovers that perhaps not all the undead are as psychopathic as the ones that attacked Barrow.

The two are drawn to a confrontation with Missus.

The first thing to say is that there is so much more plot that the first book, it is well rounded and we gain an insight into the characters that the first book did not entertain. “Dark Days” realises the potential that “30 days of night” had but did not achieve. I have glossed over the plot, in this review, in a way that I did not do for the first novel because there is so much to discover and it is a joy to do so.

Characterisation has vastly improved. We learn to care about Stella and Judith and we are genuinely intrigued by the goings on amongst the undead, perhaps the characters and motives of the vampires are still a little vague, but it offers an air of mystery rather than making them feel like plot devices. A lot of the action is much more up close and personal than that of the first and the book is stronger for that. We also get some interesting glimpses into the mythology Niles is building. In the first novel it was intimated that a scratch from one of the undead would infect a mortal, now we discover that it might. We find that they can be resurrected by having blood poured upon their ashes. There are Renfield type characters called bug eaters, some of the undead can communicate telepathically and they can resurrect the dead as drones to battle for them.

Illustration wise, Templesmith’s work is very similar to that of the previous novel, the Lovecraftian air is still there but the movement from the frozen wastes of Alaska into the concrete jungle of LA seems to suit the style wonderfully.

If I had one complaint it was that the relationship which developed between Stella and Dane seemed to happen rather suddenly, but that almost fit in with the character of the new, reckless Stella.

Overall this is a commendable addition to the annals of vampire fiction and gains a worthy 8 out of 10.


Mateo said...

Wow, you're going to burn yourself out with these long daily reviews..

Hey, if you're main problem with 30 Days 1 was the lack of deep story, you'd probably love the pirate vampire graphic novel Sea of Red. You'll definitely get to love those characters. My main attraction to 30 Days is just the universe in general, i've never gotten attached to any particular characters.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Mateo, I'm getting them out of my system (the long reviews) before Friday as Elder Scrolls Oblivion is released and things will slow down! Thanks for the tip