Sunday, August 05, 2007

13 Bullets – review

Author: David Wellington

First Published: 2007

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: “All the official reports say they are dead – extinct since the late ‘80s, when a fed named Arkeley nailed the last vampire in a fight that nearly killed him. But the evidence proves otherwise.

“When a state trooper named Caxton calls the FBI looking for help in the middle of the night, it is Arkeley who gets the assignment – who else? He’s been expecting the call to come eventually. Sure, it has been years since any sign of an attack, but Arkeley knows what most people don’t: there is one left. In an abandoned asylum she is rotting, plotting and biding her time in a way that only the undead can.

“Caxton is out of her league on this case and more than a little afraid, but the fed made it plain that there is only one way out. But the worst thing is the feeling that the vampires want more than her blood. They want her for a reason, one she can’t guess; a reason her sphinxlike partner knows but won’t say; a reason she has to find out – or die trying.

“Now there are only 13 bullets between Caxton and Arkeley and the vampires. There are only 13 bullets between us, the living, and them, the damned.”

The Review: This novel was originally published online for free, as I reported last year. When I posted that I had read a couple of chapters and, to my shame, I never got much further. Not because there was anything wrong with the novel, but because I don’t get on with reading novels from a screen.

So when I saw that the novel had been published, and it had appeared in a local bookshop, I jumped at the chance of finally reading it and – if the truth be told – couldn’t put the book down.

The book is action packed as Wellington has eschewed the popular romantic, angst ridden vampires with dark romantic souls for beasts – creatures of pure evil that are utterly unnatural. The vampires do not look human, they are albino, with pointed ears and are bald. Their mouths are maws of razor teeth and they lust only for blood – and the protection of their elders, in an almost ancestor worship way.

They are strong and tough. A well fed vampire can shrug off a bullet, it won’t even break the skin. In her first fight Caxton tries to stake one and the wood splinters. All the normal vampire killing techniques are myth – only destruction of the heart works, though there is a hint that starvation will eventually kill them.

They can call up a victim to serve them, rotting ghouls who rip their faces away and are known as half-deads. What intrigued me was the way Wellington played with how vampires are created. They are hypnotic creatures and can push, psychically, their curse into the mind of another. Then they encourage them, often in dreams, to kill themselves. It is the suicide that guarantees that they will rise.

Wellington has put the action, the gore and the horror back into the genre with a well written book. Characterisation wise we get to know and care for Caxton. As for Arkerley, he is a little flatter but that is no failure in characterisation – that is his character.

A book, therefore, to strongly recommend – especially to fans of 30 Days of Night. Whilst the book does not stray into the mythology of the graphic novel it does come from the same, balls out action and horror area of the genre.

8.5 out of 10.

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