Friday, February 13, 2009

Skarlet – review


Author: Thomas Emson

First Published: 2009

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: You thought you knew…

Fear grips London as dozens of clubbers die after taking a sinister new drug, but that’s only the beginning. Forty-eight hours later, the dead clubbers wake up – and it is open season on the living, who are butchered for their blood.

Soon, London gives a name to its terror: VAMPIRES

Jake Lawton, bitter and betrayed after the Iraq War, finds himself fighting another battle – against the growing army of immortal hunters and their human cohorts. He joins forces with the journalist who brought about his downfall and the dealer tricked into distributing the drug. And together they take on the spineless authorities, the ruthless cohorts, and the hungry dead.

But the vampire plague unleashed in London is nothing to what lurks beneath the streets –

Waiting to be fed…

Waiting to be resurrected…

Waiting to reign again over a city of human slaves…

The review: Sometimes a book cover just captures my eye. The cover of Skarlet did just that, in a high street booksellers (and, from what I have since gathered somewhat earlier than the forward release date). The cover caught my eye and despite the old adage, ‘never judge a book by its cover’ I remembered the wisdom of the Simpsons when they said you can judge a book by its cover, especially with regards the blurb on the cover. The blurb, as you can see, mentioned vampires.

We are in the realm of the good old-fashioned horror novel here. A plague of vampires spreading through the streets of London and they are not the romantic vampires often favoured as this attack on a bus shows, “The vampire attacked one of them, tearing out his throat. Blood fountained from the wound. It attacked another youth, butchering him, blood spouting from the shredded throat.”

The idea of tying drug culture and vampiric behaviour is nothing new at all, however this isn’t just some random drug – this has been designed for a purpose and Emson starts revealing a grand conspiracy as well as a satisfying back history that stretched back to Babylon and the exploits of Alexander the Great. Not as explored, certainly, but nice in its brevity is the reference to Vlad Tepes who Emson informs us was not the vampire that, through Bram Stoker and Dracula, people have assumed but rather the clue is in his act of impalement – those impaled were vampires and he was a hunter thereof.

There is some strong characterisation though I didn’t buy into all the backgrounds. Jake Lawton, disgraced soldier, I didn’t buy for instance – despite being the main character. Simply put a journalist publicised a video of him executing what looked like an unarmed civilian, but his story is that the man was a suicide bomber and he became a political scapegoat. I am sorry, I didn’t buy that. The military would have protected him and made it clear to the world that the man was a suicide bomber. That is only a little irk and we are in a fictional world however.

If this is ever filmed the money shot is at Big Ben, looking at the clock we see a “figure stood in one of the faces, more than three hundred feet above Parliament Square. It hung on to one of the clock’s hands, watching the chaos below.”

All in all this is solid horror, well worth a read with some nice background material within. 7 out of 10.

16 comments:

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

Hey Taliesin

Looks like an interesting novel, England is a lush country to set a vampire novel even though I've only seen parts of it (London, Salisbury, Bath, Boscastle, Tintagel. Essex and Camden) so I'll add this to my reading pile - it's not too much like 28 Days Later or 30 Days of Night is it?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Gabriel

I guess there is a degree of 28 days... but only a degree, these are undead and it is supernatural and there is a plan. Not so much like 30 days... If anything it shares more of a heritage with They Thirst by McCammon

Dracenea said...

This sounded interesting until the vampires were the bad guys. : (

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Unfortunately, if you are going to reclaim the vampire novel as a horror novel, and raise it from the quagmire of vampire romance novels that seem to be filling booksellers these days, then the vampires, tend to, have to be bad guys.

The problem is, of course, that if they are the good guys - and they are so powerful, the sense of horror is diminished.

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

I agree.

we've had a plethora or vampire detective novels where monsters for some reason have tried to reclaim their former humanity out of some half-assed attempt at redemption so that the dark-rich blood that was once the vampire novel has become pale watered down red cordial.

Vampires ARE monsters - not 100 yr old Highschool kids that sparkle in the sun *barf* or private investigators. What has got me with the current trend of the vampire/horror novel written by bored housewives is why does a monster become an P.I and that's it? of course the horror and spy-fi/detective novel are great when done well ala Brian Lumley because the vampires in it ARE monsters, but this watered down bodice ripping teen crap has just gone too far already! sheesh!

Where are the vampire novels for the guys! we read horror too!!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Gabriel, I understand your position - though I will say that I do like some vampire as the hero material and even the romance end is okay on the rare occasion that it is well written.

I want it all really, I want the vampire hero, I want the looking for redemption but I also want the monster, the brutal killer, and that is what has been in short supply for a while but seems to be returning back into vogue.

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

Don't get me wrong I'm a big fan of Forever Knight, Angel and I didn't mind Moonlight or Blood Ties - BIG fan of True Blood - but it's just the jumping on the bandwagon and the pale imitations that annoy me.

Networks even admit it that they are cashing in on a craze as per the greenlitting of a vampire diaries pilot due to the success of Twilight *barf* and True Blood etc. Talk about riding the gravy train!!

Dracenea said...

Maybe I shouldn't have phrased my comment that way. I guess I want the monster without the hunting sometimes.

There was a movie, can't remember the name but Taliesin might, where the vampires lived side by side with humans. The vampires were called The Brothers. This worked out fine until one day when a brother violated the agreement and murdered a human. That was a good movie because you had them co-existing peacefully but then you had one get out of line and so you had the monster/hunting as well.

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

I think you might mean PERFECT CREATURE with Dougray Scott?

Dracenea said...

Yes, that was the title. Did you see that? Did you enjoy it?

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

Yes, I saw it - thought it was average - it was a carbon copy of an earlier film called THE BREED with Adrian Paul from Highlander tv series - and to me it was also inspired by EQUILIBRIUM with Christian Bale - the vampires kinda reminded me of the Grammaton Clerics from that film.

Dracenea said...

Ah, I have not seen either of those films.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Now, I really enjoyed perfect creature... I didn't find it at all like The Breed in background (liked the Breed as well I recall)... I can see the Equilibrium similie, but again it was somewhat different

S. Roit said...

"I want it all really, I want the vampire hero, I want the looking for redemption but I also want the monster, the brutal killer, and that is what has been in short supply for a while but seems to be returning back into vogue."

I rather felt this way too, which is, amongst other things, what prompted me to write my series. Not so much on the redemption scale (on personal levels, yes, not redemption for being a vampire) though.

I like all of the 'styles' of vampires if done well, but it did seem a flood of the more whiny, or superficial romance stuff came along.

(Couldn't agree more with Gabriel, too. Twilight. No thanks. It just doesn't do a thing for me.)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Sherry, as you know I did very much like your book - the other parts are in my wish list.

S. Roit said...

Well now, I wasn't compliment fishing, but thanks again. ;-)