Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Vampire Hunters – review

Author: Scott M Baker

First published: 2010

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Modern day vampire hunters wage a brutal battle against the undead in the nation's capital…

As former Boston cops, Drake Matthews and Alison Monroe thought they had experienced it all... until they found themselves tracking down a serial killer who turned out to be one of the undead. Stopping him cost them their careers and almost their lives.

Thanks to an influential and anonymous benefactor, Drake and Alison find a new job ridding the streets of Washington D.C. of the vampiric threat terrorizing the nation's capital.

Only this time, Drake and Alison are not facing a single vampire but an entire nest led by Ion Zielenska, one of history's most evil and twisted masters. As the vampires indiscriminately prey on humans, seeing them as nothing more than food to satiate their hunger, they create a wave of violence that threatens to engulf the city.

Orchestrating the carnage is Antoinette Varela, the mistress of the nest, whose vendetta against the hunters is personal.

The review: The first of a trilogy, the obvious thing to state about Scott M Baker’s take on vampire mythology is that he genuinely wants to put the evil back into vampirism.

He has developed a vampire mythology where there are two types of vampire and first we meet the 'minor' one. Known as snuffies these are the drained victims of a master vampire who rise and serve their master and they are tough. In the opening of the book we meet one who despite losing half his face in a shotgun blast and being engulfed in an inferno struggles on (despite the fact he is doomed), clinging to life. These vampires look like you’d imagine the undead to look, ghoulish, red-eyed monsters.

Then you have the Masters, made when a master feeds their victim their blood they blend in with humanity and have a vampiric face. Even tougher, they heal their wounds, are incredibly strong and generally psychologically warped.

Both types are described as soulless and evil.

The ex-cops, now vampire hunters, Drake and Alison are depicted in a very action-centric sort of way. Drake is a no nonsense, cigar chomping and bourbon swigging character straight out of an action movie, whilst Alison is sexy, sassy and secretly in love with her partner. It could have got a little to clichéd but Baker offers them additional depth. She has nightmares and he is clearly psychologically fractured. He suffers aches and pains and has a pet rabbit called Van Helsing. Humanising touches that lifted them from the stereotype. However this is an action book and it does not lose sight of that either, it rattles along at a pace with solid prose. The story occasionally diverts to the vampires’ past (and an alternate history) that helps add a further interesting element to the tale.

The vampires can be destroyed through stake, incineration beheading and sunlight. In a surprising move Baker made crosses ineffective and had vampires able to enter consecrated ground but also had holy water act like an acid (and it would scar the vampire in a way that couldn’t be healed). I wasn’t overly sure why one (holy water) would work whilst another (consecrated ground) was ineffective but it may be explained more in future volumes.

Unfortunately, if the character detail stopped the hunters from falling to far into cliché, the occasional muttering to Satan on the vampire's part felt a little clunky to me. This a very minor gripe, however and all in all this was an action book with vampires that were evil and dangerous and, in itself, this made for a good read and a refreshing move away from the maudlin vampire. I liked the idea of the collateral damage on a hunt invariably leading to the arrest of the hunters and their benefactor pressurising the city into releasing them – and I am actually look forward to seeing if Baker makes the wheels fall off that particular wagon in future volumes.

A solid beginning to the series that I am sure will be built upon. 6.5 out of 10.

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