Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bottomfeeder – review

Author: B.H. Fingerman

First Published: 2006

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Phil Merman is a regular guy.

A regular guy who just happens to be immortal, for whatever that’s worth. So far all it’s gotten him is a divorce, a lack of friends and family, and a string of soul-killing jobs with no room for advancement. Bound to a self-imposed ethical code bordering on vigilantism, Phil prowls the bowels of New York City in search of suitable sustenance – the homeless, the insane, no one who’ll be missed – all the while wondering how he became what he is. Are there others of his kind? Would he want to know them? Clues to the mystery of his existence begin to reveal themselves, luring him into spaces perhaps best left unknown.

The review: I was contacted by Tara, a reader of the blog, who suggested this volume to me and I am rather grateful that she did. I am always glad to receive recommendations and was especially drawn by her description of the book being “more of a character study than an adventurous plot driven story”.

It is 2001 and Phil has been a vampire since he was attacked in 1974, he lives in New York and, as I read it, I felt it was a New York I had come across through the acerbic and hysterical stand up of Bill Hicks – no surprise then when Phil quotes Hicks. There is a cynicism to Phil as well as a pretension – his language often falls into a conceited pattern. However, what we discover is an ordinary guy, with loves, hates, irrational fears and his own personal bigotries.

Tara said it was more a character study and this is true, but there is a story, crafted skilfully into the study and a twist at the end that, whilst I felt there was something odd about the character involved, I never saw coming. The final page of the book is a black humoured slice of irony that was worth the ride we have been on.

The vampire lore is sparse as the vampires themselves do not know all about themselves. Having met Eddie – one of his own kind – Phil is introduced to vampire society. There are libertines, group therapies and a home for those turned who have mental and physical disabilities.

The vampires know they must avoid sunlight – it burns them quickly, they can heal physical wounds and are immune to diseases and most intoxicants (though a libertine vampire has developed a herbal drug that keeps her stock of humans docile and gets the vampire high when the blood is drunk). Phil assumes a stake through the heart will kill, but does not truly know and whilst we witness a decapitation we never actually definitively discover if that is the end – though we suspect it is. Holy items are ineffective as a vampire deterrent. The bite of a vampire causes the victim to become limp and Phil believes it is because the saliva has an anesthetising toxin.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, a trip into well written literature that creates a vampire who actually comes across as a real, flawed person - one whom, I must admit, I didn't overly like as a person but whose voice and tale was well worth reading. 8.5 out of 10.

No comments: