Sunday, May 05, 2013

Fat Vampire – review

Author: Johnny B. Truant

First Published: 2012

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: When overweight treadmill salesman Reginald Baskin finally meets a co-worker who doesn't make fun of him, it's just his own bad luck that tech guy Maurice turns out to be a two thousand-year-old vampire.

And when Maurice turns Reginald to save his life, it's just Reginald's own further bad luck that he wakes up to discover he's become the slowest, weakest, most out-of-shape vampire ever born, doomed to "heal" to his corpulent self for all of eternity.

As Reginald struggles with the downsides of being a fat vampire -- too slow to catch people to feed on, mocked by those he tries to glamour, assaulted by his intended prey and left for undead -- he discovers in himself rare powers that few vampires have… and just in time too, because the Vampire Council might just want his head for being an inferior representative of their race.

Fat Vampire is the story of an unlikely hero who, after having an imperfect eternity shoved into his grease-stained hands, must learn to turn the afterlife's lemons into tasty lemon danishes.

The Review: I remember a facebook thread that asked whether there were fat vampires in films… there are but they are few and far between. The fat undead also appear in some of the original folklore about the walking dead type the draugr, described as massively inflated in body size. However the point of the thread was about body consciousness as much as anything. Johnny B Truant’s book came from a similar place. The premise was, if you remain exactly as you were when you died, as a vampire, why do we not see fat vampires (and would you chose to be one).

From that premise was born this book (the first of a series). Now it has to be said it isn’t the first time a book has looked at this subject. Andrew Fox’s Fat White Vampire Blues and Bride of the Fat White Vampire apparently tread similar grounds (they are in my ‘to read’ pile).

Reginald is fat and mocked by co-workers because of his size. He was mocked in college and mocked at school. The book is therefore, very much, about the negative attitude many people have towards body image and the need that those with bodies that fit (more) in with societal norms to mock, persecute and, quite frankly, bully those who fall outside the media dictated view point. Perhaps they are just too insecure themselves and their mockery is a twisted attempt to feel secure?

When Reginald is turned he discovers that vampire society is pretty much the same as human society in that respect. The vampire body can excel because it heals faster than the damage the vampire does to it but the upshot is the more unfit a human you were the more unfit and physically weak you will be as a vampire. Indeed prospective vampires are expected to hone their bodies and must be able to pass a set of physically demanding tests. Vampire society does not appreciate, therefore, intelligence and artistry. However vampirism will work with what it has and if it cannot hone what is below the neck it will sharpen what is above and, as the Vampire Nation look to remove what they see as an aberration, Reginald must rely on a brain that has been well and truly honed.

Now there was a worry that, given the title of the book, that this was going to be a comedy (it is) that draws its humour from Reginald’s misfortune and whilst the practicalities of hunting when a vampire who is 350 lbs and can be physically outmatched by the average jogger is part of the book it never felt as though the humour was cruel. This probably comes down to the fact that Truant made Reginald the heart of the book and, as a reader, you certainly do side with him and feel for him.

The book is not massively long (approximately 148 pages) but even so I was astounded by just how quickly I devoured it (and I realise there is almost a pun there). Well worth a read. 8 out of 10.

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