Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Christine Feehan's Dark series

So, sorry about the sudden lack of posting, but this is midterm and term paper month and I’m a bit buried with the studying.

This week I’m looking at Christine Feehan’s Dark series, which just recently saw its eighteenth book, Dark Curse, published and, no, is not over yet. Okay, little note here, but it can’t be helped. What is up with these never ending series? I mean, it one thing when it’s Piers Anthony or Terry Pratchett, whose Xanth and Discworld series respectively are "world" based. But when you're dealing with the same set of characters or, even worse, the same narrator and it's starting to make The Neverending Story seem short, you become torn between wanting to known how it ends (provided it ever does) and just getting tired of having no happily ever after book after book. But I digress.

Ok, so what is it about these vamps that make them unique? Well, we're talking about an entire species of males who, as they remain bachelors over the centuries, lose not only their emotions, but their ability to see color. Now that, my dear friends, is a twist. Oh, and FYI, important distinction: the whole colorblind-emotionless-bloodsucking thing has them being called "Carpathians;" it's only if they cross a line and start killing their meals that they become vampires and lose their soul. For the Carpatians, they hold out hope that eventually they'll find their one true love and be restored. Naturally, there haven't been any females born in a long, long time and turning humans fails more often than not.

The Dark series gives new meaning to corny. I mean, they're so corny that they trudge right through the land of bad right into the category of funny/amusing. Take the first book for example, Dark Prince. Mikhail Dubrinsky is the oldest known Carpathian (we'll get back to that later) and just when he decides it's time to call it quits and walk into the sun, he howls out his despair to the skies and wouldn't you know it but his one true love just happens to be on vacation and staying a nearby inn, hears his howl, and telepathically connects with him, thus restoring his hope and setting off the courtship. Talk about being lucky. All-in-all the book was something between a B-movie and a classic soap opera, complete even with a random character who pops up and is all angsty (not that any of them aren't all angsty) and is told to try a change of scenary in America. You'd think that would somehow be a set-up for the next book, but that vamp's story isn't until book three.

The appeal for this series really is in its abundant corniness. You keep reading simply to see how much more cliche it could get and it never fails to disappoint. What's more, you find yourself falling in love with the characters as you go along. One of the more recent publications of the series was Dark Celebration that featured/centered on a reunion of all the past couples; which with a series so long (this was the sixteenth book) was an ingenius move on Feehan's part. One book, Dark Hunger, was even a graphic novel illustrated by Zid and Imaginary Friends Studio and published by Berkeley, supposedly their first manga ever. It's based on a short story in the anthrology Hot Blooded, but the reviews I've read have made it clear you shouldn't bother with it: even the review posted on Amazon notes the short story falls flat of Feehan's usual standards.

The series truly is worth the read: Feehan's Dark series is one sure to leave its bitemark on the vamp genre. It's not something you want to miss out on!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lynsay Sands' Argeneau Vampires

Ever notice how there are hundreds, if not thousands, of vampire books out there. I mean, it’s like good old Bram set off a wildfire of vampiric inspiration when he put pen to paper and gave us Drakey-Poo. But that's not the issue I'm getting at. No, today's intro rant, boils and ghouls, is that each new incarnation of Mr. Fangy tends to come complete with its very own vampire-origins story. Talk about seeing creativity at its finest! Some authors use biblical 411, drawing on the vagueness surrounding Cain or Lilith. Others go with demon-possessions gone awry or curses from witches or gypsies. There's the old blame-it-on-the-bat ploy and the similar "OMG, got bit by some other sort of creature/extinct beast/alien/demon/whatever" ploy.

On a side note, I have a point of contention here: have you noticed that these "victims" of course somehow divine the not-at-all-obvious way to pass on their infection and of course do so, with their victims doing the same until presto! we have a species. I mean, did the whatever leave a manuel or something?

But, I digress. Back on topic, the less popular version of the origin story is the scientific one, where authors use a disease or blood disorder or simple human evolution as the cause for vampirism. It's following in this vein (haha, get it?) that, I have to say, the most...intriguing and original explanation emerges, without question taking the cake. So much so that how ever Lynsay Sands ever thought of it is beyond me. Author of the very popular Argeneau Vampire series, which apparently recently became the Argeneau and Rogue Hunter series, her books follow a family of vampires as one after the other they find their "true Lifemates".

So, what's her cake-taking explanation you ask? Well, her vampires hail from the long-ago-sunken Atlantis where their scientists, eons ahead of their time, created nanos which were meant to heal the human body of any injury, infection or disease. However, due to a glitch in their programming, the nanos took their job to the next level, healing absolutely any damage the body suffered, from skin damage brought on by the sun to cellular damage brought on by age to cancer to, well, anything. This resulted in a society of immortals with Wolverine-like abilities and an unfortunate need for regular ingestions of blood to give the nanos raw material to draw upon. To facilitate this need, the nanos apparently saw to it that their hosts evolved to include telepathy and retractable fangs. And voila! We have vampires.

Now, come on, you can't tell me that the idea of Atlantians turned blood-sucking immortals because of nanos is not freaking cool! See? Totally cake-taking.

And the books aren’t half-bad either.

Personally, I have to admit I haven’t quite caught up to the newest release, which hit the shelves September 30, having only just finished the fourth...um...maybe it was the fifth...book a couple of months ago, but so far there hasn’t been much to complain about. It’s hard not to fall in love with the characters, and even harder not to laugh at the situations and circumstances that bring together each book’s central lovebirds. I mean, we’re talking about things like a hemaphobic vampire coming home to find a psychologist tied spread-eagle in her bed and a videogame designer falling for his almost-pathologist after repeated visits to the morgue as a would-be cadaver. And yet somehow, Sands manages to make the ridiculous work, throwing in just enough seriousness to make her books more than just comic relief.

It’s my opinion that the Argeneau family dynamics are really what make the books; somehow, managing to define the ideal without being clichĂ©. They’re the perfect balance of best friends, mentors, protectors, loners, and black sheep, giving an element of realism that’s not exactly the easiest thing to pull off when dealing with vampires. They even have relatives in Europe, a tragic uncle that’s gone MIA, and a family matriarch whose abusive husband managed to flambĂ© himself, raised more than half of the youngest generation. Just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, picture-perfect, immortal vampire family doing any 50s sitcom proud. What’s there not to love?

The most important thing perhaps about the series is that there’s enough variety and originality in each plot, that the stories are more than carbon copies of each other with only the fine details changed. Each character has his or her own unique history and personality that is incorporated into the stories, and the meddling and manipulations of Marguerite, the aforementioned family matriarch, (whose own love story is told in book nine, Vampire, Interrupted), make every book its own.

I have to say though, I’m a bit skeptical about this new book; it’s breaking a lot of the traditions the previous books have had and looks to be taking the series in a new direction. First, a minor note, is the title. The first six books had “bite” in the title as a running theme, the next three had “vampire,” and the title of this new book? The Rogue Hunter. And what’s it about you ask? If you were going to guess an Argeneau…you would actually be wrong (which kind of explains why the series title had to have that slight modification I mentioned earlier). It’s about Garrett Mortimer, a vamp introduced back in Lucian's book, Bite Me If You Can. And here's a big shock, Mortimer's night job? Well, He's a rogure hunter, d'uh. In this book he's on assignment and falling in love with workaholic lawyer Samantha Willan, who's literally the girl next door.

I think the big mystery with this book stems from the fact that Sands' has picked up on this virtual unknown secondary character from three books ago and made him into a star. I mean, it's not as if she's run out of Argeneaus or that the Argeneaus themselves aren't varied. So, what's the sitch? Why is this book is included as part of the series? Why can't it be a stand alone? Or a spin off? All right, I get that it serves to lead the way into Decker's book, The Immortal Hunter, due out March 31, 2009, but even then...there's the question of why she didn't simply pair Mortimer with an Argeneau female. Oh, and did you notice that on Amazon The Immortal Highlander isn't identified as being part of the Argeneau Vampires but as a Rogue Hunter novel? What's up with that?All these questions can have but one solution: I'm heading out to get my hands on The Rogue Hunter ASAP. How about you?