Monday, October 16, 2006

30 Days of Night: Rumors of the Undead – review

Authors: Steve Niles & Jess Mariotte

Release Date: 2006

Contains spoilers

This novel is based on the world created in the graphic novel/comic series which starts with the graphic novel 30 Days of Night. The story begins immediately after the events of the graphic novel short story “Agent Norris MIA”. I haven’t read that, unfortunately, but the introduction to this novel does state you do not need to be familiar with that story to fully follow the novel and this did seem to be the case.

Knowledge of the stories, whilst unnecessary, enhances the experience as awareness of the references makes a lot of the events hauntingly familiar and that does drawn the novel closer around you. The events take place between Dark Days and “Return to Barrow”, actually passing beyond the “Return to Barrow” timeline (the events of which are mentioned briefly but not in detail). There is also some reference to the events in the graphic novel short “Dead Billy Dead” published in “Bloodsucker Tales Vol. 1”.

If you are unfamiliar with the stories mentioned above the book does a very nice job of bringing the reader up to date. In the graphic novels, by Dark Days, we discover that Stella Olemaun released a book based on the events she survived in Barrow called 30 days of Night and the novel contains, throughout, excerpts from Stella’s book. These were great but they did leave me wishing that Niles would pull together a prose version of that book.

The story is concerned with FBI Special Agent Andy Gray, erstwhile partner of Agent Norris. It follows his discovery that his missing partner has become a vampire, his struggle with accepting the truth and the way his life falls apart as he tries to uncover evidence of the vampires’ existence to the chagrin of his superiors, the shadowy Government project Operation Red-Blooded (who suppress, often violently, the knowledge of the vampires) and, of course, the vampires themselves.

As the evidence mounts up Gray is left with the ultimate conclusion that “it seemed unlikely… …that such a specific sort of story would have roots in so many different places and that such a diverse assortment of people would fear the beings who came in the night.

“Unlikely, unless those people all understood something that modern Western civilisation, in its limitless ‘wisdom’ and sophistication, had decided to pretend was nothing more than a story.

“Vampires were real.”

The vampires themselves are ruthless killing machines, their ‘condition’ causing their hands to curl into talons and causing razor rows of teeth to sprout in their mouths. They can take a huge amount of damage; Norris at the head of the novel survives at least seventy gunshot wounds. The only two things that can kill them are sunlight and removal of the head – “Nothing lives without a head.” This is the joy of 30 days, whilst some of those vampirised have more about them, many become psychotic killing machines – 30 days is all about placing the horror back into the vampire genre and is a nice change of pace from the slough of vampires with pathos and overly romantic vampires.

I loved the world that Niles had created with the 30 days graphic novels but, as I said in my review of 30 Days of Night, I had problems with the original’s lack of characterisation – a flaw that was much improved upon later in the series. This does not suffer from that in any way shape or form, Gray is an excellently thought out character and we really do get inside his head as he descends into near madness and out the other side, the novel also complements the original graphic novel by adding characterisation that was not there initially through the excerpts from Stella’s book.

This more than makes up for the fact that, by the very nature of this being prose, we have lost Templesmith’s excellent artwork - with the exception of the cover.

This is not high literature, but it doesn’t matter as it isn’t meant to be. The prose is strong and the style flows well, with strong description of the carnage wreaked by the vampires and stronger description of the wreckage of Gray’s life. It was a book that I could not put down and, as well as wanting a specific prose version of the 30 days story, from Stella’s point of view, I was left with a desire for Niles to produce more general prose set in the 30 days universe, especially if it concerned Operation Red-Blooded. I’m more than happy to give this novel 8 out of 10 as a rollercoaster ride through the horror that is the 30 Days universe.


Mateo said...

That's good to hear. This is one of the only 30 days books I haven't read, and I've been meaning to pick it up. Norris comes up a couple of times in the graphic novels. The story about him turning is in there somewhere, I'm a little fuzzy on that, it might have been in the Bloodsucker Tales book for which I wasn't a huge fan of. He does come up again recently, I believe in the one-shot 2005 Annual, which was great.

I believe I remember reading a while back that Niles was going to do more prose novels, so we'll see.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Mateo

If the Noriss turning is in a bloodsucker tales it was in vol 2 (which I don't have). The main Noriss tale, as far as I can gather, is Agent Noriss MIA which I believe was in annual #1.

Good to hear that Niles is looking at more prose.