Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gabriele Caccini – review

Author: Paigan Stone

First Published: 2007

Contains spoilers

This book came to my attention because of a controversy surrounding the author. Having made a ‘best horror guide’ Stone, her penname, was suspended from her job as a teacher at a UK Catholic school because of the book’s alleged lurid content. I never posted about this when it was hitting the internet news as I did not want to go on a rant about faith based schools, but my interest in the novel itself was tweaked. So, is the book lurid? Is it any good? We shall see, and I make no apologies for commenting on the controversy.

The book is the first book of a series entitled “The Vampire Gene” and follows a 400 year old vampire named Gabriele Caccini. Jay, as he is currently known, selects a victim just once a year, the victim is invariably female and of a type (reminiscent of his cousin, who was his first love), brunette and boyish of figure. Once selected he woos the victim, in a least one case he married them, and then feeds. He always hopes that they will turn, but none ever has.

In this case his selected victim is Carolyn and, as she has headed to Manchester University, he enrols there. All seems to be going well until he starts noticing Lilly – a girl who is definitely not his type, she is blonde and curvaceous. At a party the drinks are spiked with ecstasy and, under the influence, he and Lilly give in to their desire and, of course, he feeds. In the morning, however, Lilly is still alive. Jay begins to wonder whether the attack was a hallucination brought on by the drug but he soon realises she is now more than alive.

The character of Jay was fascinating. He eventually came across as vulnerable, almost innocent in a perverse way, a predator who was searching for love. However his base character was certainly sociopathic, indeed he wonders himself whether he was a sociopath and the way he liked to play with victims was almost cat like. He also had aspects of a serial killer; he liked to keep souvenirs of his kills in the form of a clip of hair from his victims, each kept in their own locket.

The character had a great deal of depth which was explored thoroughly as the book took us through moments of his life through the ages.

The vampire lore was unique. The vampire would develop talents the more they fed; they had strength, a chameleon like invisibility, the ability to fly and eye mojo aplenty. The need to feed was sexual and that lust could be projected to their victim or, indeed, to others nearby. There was actually no need to kill once a year, a vampire could feed more often and not kill the victim, as Lucrezia, his creator who abandoned him centuries before, tells him when they meet in the twentieth century. The vampires are also indestructible, Jay scoffs at the concept of a stake, sunlight is not a problem and Lucrezia has allowed herself to be burned at the stake and then raised herself from the ashes. Jay does not fear destruction at the hands of man but more fears what the mortal world would do to him, in the name of science, if he was ever discovered.

The book was well written, a good, solid piece of prose with decent characterisation, as I mentioned. The book has an underlying eroticism, that cannot be denied, but as for lurid… and here I come to the controversy. Those who thought it lurid have obviously never read any Laurell K Hamilton, this novel is erotic, certainly, and passionate but is not really explicit at all. There is minor drug use mentioned but, again, nothing compared to descriptions in many other books. To be honest I read much more explicit books, such as The Fog and The Exorcist, when I was in school (and I went to a Catholic school) – Hell I even did a book report on a Sven Hassel novel.

Paigan Stone used a penname and published in the US and the attack on her employment was unwarranted and potentially either a knee-jerk reaction by overly sensitive persons who had not read the prose or it was simply an act of jealousy. I mean, here is a teacher who ignored the adage “Those that can do, those that can't teach” and did.

As it is, the controversy has ended up as a positive as it has brought her book publicity and it is reaching a wider audience than it may of otherwise. This can be no bad thing when a book is both well written and enjoyable, as this certainly is. 7.5 out of 10.

Many thanks to my friend Mike, who bought me this for my birthday - cheers mate.


J.R. LeMar said...

I agree with your assessments on both the content of the book, & on the controversy surrounding the author's former job. I "met" Paigan via Myspace last year, & bought her book when it first came out, & I loved it. I was surprised later on when she told be about the uproar this caused @ her school. But perhaps, as you say, it's all for the best. If it gets even a few more folks to check out the book, then that's good. Nice review, man!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Many thanks for the comment, please feel free to look around the blog - much more vampiric goodness to be discovered