Saturday, November 01, 2008

Vampire Zero – review

Author: David Wellington

First Published: 2008

Contains spoilers – note that this is book 3 and the spoilers also impinge on the first two volumes.

The blurb: “One man stood between us and them.

“US Marshal Jameson Arkeley – the country’s foremost authority on vampires – taught police investigator and vampire fighter Laura Caxton everything she knows about monsters. After a bloody war visited upon Gettysburg by an army of vampires, Arkeley gave up his own life to save others. Except he didn’t exactly die…

“Arkeley accepted the curse and is now a vampire himself. What’s worse, he’s the savviest vampire ever – he knows all the tricks better than anyone. Caxton is now faced with the task of destroying him. But Arkeley knows all her tactics too; after all, he taught them to her. Caxton realises she must finish Arkeley before he succeeds in his quest to exterminate his own family, one member at a time. But even more important, she has to prevent him from becoming a beast exponentially more dangerous – a Vampire Zero.

“The author of 13 bullets and 99 coffins, David Wellington takes the Laura Caxton series to a whole new level in this action-packed third volume.”

The Review: The blurb fairly much covers the ins and outs of this third volume of the Laura Caxton series. For those who haven’t read book one and two, the blurb itself has just offered such a massive spoiler for the finale of the second book it is untrue – and yet how else could it run?

If you haven’t read the first two volumes you are missing a treat. Wellington took the genre and created a whole new bread of sociopathic vampires, brutal predators that will stop at nothing to get what they want, and what they want is blood. He made vampires scary and violent, he eschewed the romantic vampire. There is nothing sexy about these creatures.

In the second book he created quite a wide vista, with an army of vampires marching onto Gettysburg and a back story that reached into US history. The focus of this volume is set on a much more narrow beam, the action takes place over a few of days and is much more personal in nature – as it is his own family that Arkeley is hunting. All this conspires to make the book much more claustrophobic than the second volume and yet it races along with a breakneck pace that is almost dizzying – this infected my reading and I devoured the volume, unable to put it down.

One aspect I found interesting is that, as Wellington wrote, “He had taught her, a very long time ago, that while many different people became vampires, once they tasted blood there was only one of them. One being, one personality. Everything that makes a human being special and unique – the personality, the compassion, the passions, and the hates – are lost and only the pure bottomless need of the vampire remains.”

I find this interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly because, whilst it is true in Wellington’s universe, we actually discover more about Arkeley the man, the personality if you like, in this volume than we did in the previous ones – albeit as he attacks and destroys that man and that life.

More so, however, is because it goes doubly so for the vampire hunter. I said in my review of 99 coffins that Caxton “shifted position as a character, taking on some of Arkeley’s traits”. As I read 99 coffins I missed the original Caxton, in this I was fascinated as she seemed to strip away everything herself – her lover, colleagues and humanity – to become a singularly driven creature. The vampire hunter too is one being, one personality and only the need to kill the monster seems to remain.

This is the thing about the book. We don’t get any further lore than that which was provided in book 1 and 2. This takes the characters and deconstructs them. It swims in a world of blood but Wellington realises he doesn’t need to throw in more lore, more gimmicks, to make this work. Even the concept of the Vampire Zero - kind of like patient zero - is nothing new, a new label perhaps but the concept of how the curse is passed on was established in book 1. Wellington has the characters and the setting and that is what he works with, and the work is good. 8.5 out of 10.


S.Roit said...

I'm picking this up soon. Love the first two.

I just picked up MONSTER NATION, the first in his much touted zombie trilogy—which I feel honored to say my publisher distributes.

Fourth attempt at posting this, something is going horribly wrong...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Sorry you had so much trouble posting. Hope you enjoy this as much as 1 and 2 - I certainly did.