Ah, yes! Vampirism. Since the dawn of mankind it has drawn our interests. We always talk about different kinds of bloodsuckers; each author and culture, at least in the history of mythology and literature, have taken a different perspective. I must admit it: I love them too. There is something in that creature that always spikes our interest.
This has come with its obvious drawbacks. Whoever dared to read or watch the Twilight Saga has experienced the dread of the shiny son of Dracula mating with a disco ball. Countless times this approach has been criticized but, as a matter of fact, it is now here to stay. All we can do now is hope for its gradual fading into oblivion.
The nature of a vampire is not as easy to play with as many a reader might think. I could lecture you (maybe one day I might) on what this pseudo-lord-of-the-night Edward is, but as far as it goes, the tag the character wears is not deserved. Changing the vampire myth, after all, has become a daunting task, specially since Anne Rice kinda set ground on modern literature bloodsucker.
This obviously does not mean no one can try anymore. Bram Stoker had already done his bit and it took a while to “dethrone” (I use the term very lightly) him from his spot as a classic (anyone remembers Nosferatu?). George Martin, more known for his Game of Thrones series, has nonetheless made the attempt. And, as I would describe it, an interesting interpretation of the favourite horror creature of all times.
Set in the area of New Orleans and the rivers, a pale, rich man with strange sleeping habits decides to create a boat to invite people with the same strange way of life to travel with him. Little known to the captain of that beautiful steamboat, he is a bloodsucker with a revolutionary invention bound to change the destiny of inter-species relationships. And, little known to the inventor, another one of his race, more ancient, is bound to stop him and shatter the dreams of unification.
Right off the bat: the imagery is enchanting.If there is something G.R.R. Martin is a master of, it is the descriptions. The story takes place in an USA just before the Civil War, and it is incredibly well researched and worked. Here we see how the relationship slave-master was really like, and how the trade on the Mississippi and other rivers flourished to a degree that we sometimes fail to imagine. Plantations, cities on the river and, why not, the steamboats themselves fill up our imagination with a daunting and attractive imagery that makes justice to the author’s abilities.
The story in itself is not bad. It is interesting how the writer explains his versions of vampires, which, as you will read, is a different take from the undead prototype. It suffers of one of those terrible cut endings, in which, as soon as the “villain” dies, it ends with a very cryptic epigraph. Not an open ending, but just a total narrative shutdown, which I have come to dislike. I really hope this does not happen to Game of Thrones!
As far as the vampires go, I think they are very well portrayed. Mind you, they are not as good as Rice’s, but the effort of imagining them is very much appreciated. It sometimes gets enthralling when the author approaches to their way of thinking. Psychology and philosophy are the main traits of this book. I really think Martin captured and old discussion very well in an imaginative way, giving the reader some food for his thought.
But, is it for everyone? I highly doubt it. It is not the description that bothers me, neither the exact historical terms Martin uses throughout his novel. It is his new idea of what a vampire is. Although interesting, I had the feeling that it was still not quite right. He may have failed at showing a new one, but at least he fared much better than Meyer. My recommendation is that only the real fans of the bloody undead should read it, or maybe even those who like stories with complicated moral choices and unusual story progression. And those who love historical novels. I think it may confuse some people on how the vampires are treated, and I definitely think it was a good take, but it just did not “feel right”. In my personal opinion, though, I liked it.
Well then, I see you next time, as always, this time I think I may release a series I have been working on since last week. Let us see how the writing progresses there!
May they smile upon your way!