Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dunraven Road – review

Author: Caroline Barnard-Smith

First Published: 2009

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: “In the sleepy backwater of Dunraven Road, a group of hedonistic friends are trapped in a deadly prison of their own making. When Zach, their enigmatic leader, brings his long term plans to fruition and paves the way for a sadistic vampire cult, their fragile world begins to break apart. Fuelled by dangerous passions and an insatiable craving for ‘red’. The group must decide whether to succumb to the sweet lure of the abyss, or stand and fight for their very survival.

The review: In her acknowledgments, Caroline Barnard-Smith refers to her own book as “this strange little novel” and indeed it is that – though that is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed this is quite an unusual piece. As the novel begins we are in a world (despite senior citizens being killed in a manner that the press calls Vamp Attacks) focused upon the beginnings of a fledgling vampyre type group – one that we know will become murderous at some point.

Most of these young people are hooked to a drug called red – a liquid hallucinogen with very addictive qualities and the thickness and consistency of blood (we later discover the source of this). However what I found was that the characters were fairly non-sympathetic. Zach is a sadistic and petty character, his friend Justin came across as a doormat, the two girls Kirsty and Sapphire come across as victims and a criticism could be that there isn’t a strong (human) female character. We also have Paul, a junky and self destructive artist, unrequitedly in love with Sapphire and beholden financially to Zach, his dealer.

The non-sympathetic nature of the characters fit within the bleak worldview of the disillusioned and disavowed generation X, but made it difficult to find one to pin your attention to. Paul and Sapphire are placed in the centre of our world view as a reader but I did struggle to care for them. Enter the vampires.

We end up with two groups, the Ancient Order are evil vampires manipulating events for their own ends. These are our real vampires (as opposed to the good vampires I will mention, rather than as opposed to the mortal wannabes). The lore is sparse:

“…‘Shouldn’t the sun burn you, or something?’

“‘Myths and fables… …Same goes for garlic and wooden stakes in the heart. Fire will hurt us, or starvation.’”

We also discover that a trauma to the brain is also deadly. The vampires can take on the form of another person and they use red as a way of making victims placid. However the Ancient Order are not the force they once were. There are few new vampires created and feeding in a world where technology seems pitied against them, cameras line the streets and DNA can be tested is proving more and more difficult. They are shades of what once they might have been.

The kin are good vampires – actually described as vegan. They subsist on a concoction made of fruit juice and herbs. In fact the concoction actually seems to have kept them rather healthy. They fear the Ancient Order and hide in plain sight amongst humanity. There were interesting characters amongst the vampires who, perhaps, could have withstood some more exploration – though their enigmatic nature was perhaps the point.

There is a very strange and unusual form of slaying that is introduced but I will not spoil the book by saying any more. Its unusual nature, however, fit in well with a book best described as quirky. 6 out of 10.

2 comments:

Amateur Vampirologist said...

If the vampire fiction genre keeps going along at the rate described here...they'll be nothing but mere shadows of their former selves.

All the "good" characteristics are being bred out of them, from the sound of it. :(

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi AV

I think, to be fair, the bad vampires - whilst shadows of their former selves - were much stronger in concept than vampires in other tomes. The vegan vampires were, of course, another matter.

However this was, as a book, above average - it just lacked a decent focal character to pin attention to