Monday, October 18, 2010

Book review - Draculas

I'm an indie author now, and so I'm interested in new techniques to get readers.  When Joe Konrath and his co-authors thought to give away ARCs of their new book so hundreds of reviews could hit the web at once, I had to help with their experiment.  (Not that I have hundreds of readers yet, but it could happen.)

Book reviews are probably not going to become a habit of mine.  I'll save that for Goodreads.  But this was a book that really caught me, and I'm not just saying that.





When I got my copy of Draculas, I read it that day.  Within a few chapters I was already excited, and telling all my friends they needed to read it.  This is easily one of the best vampire books I have read in quite a while.  It's like Dawn of the Dead bred with 30 Days of Night, and the baby was born with chainsaw in hand, sucking down a bottle of Wild Turkey.

It's a very fast-paced book, with a steady flow between the viewpoints.  You barely get to meet some of the main characters before everything goes pear shaped, and it really works.  The authors have you wondering who's about to die, and who's going to live, and wondering who you should place your bets on.  When the climax arrived, I know I was stunned and happy and sad, all at the same time.

The four authors work well together, and while you can pick out that one of them was in charge of a character, there's no dissonance to the tale.  They keep the narrative and the voice so similar that you comfortably slip from one part to the next, but you are definitely in a different person's point of view.  When we get to be inside the vampire heads, there's an alien feel to the thought processes, but with a very eerie familiarity to the humans they were.

Fear is harnessed well.  Unarmed, alone in the dark, surrounded by ravening monsters, your heart races with the characters.  Hospitals aren't meant to be defensible, and the make-shift way everyone deals with the vampires highlights how limited a hospital is in that way.  I'd rather be trapped in a mall any day.

As odd as it is to say about a vampire apocalypse fiction, the ending was very realistic.  No deus ex machina swooping in on our heroes.  The vampires don't suddenly become retarded and are easily thwarted by the humans.  There's tragedy, and surprises, and an all-guns-blazing finale.

It's an extremely satisfying ending, wrapping up the threads that need to be wrapped up, and yet dynamic enough to make the world feel alive.  And leave you craving a sequel.  (Based on some of the included extras, I believe a sequel likely.)

The mythos of the vampires is unique in a very good way.  Any origin story that has to deal with Romania and Vlad Tepes usually makes me cringe a little, but I loved what these gentlemen did.  They blended existing folklore into something horrific and plausible, and put a new face on it.

Not everything worked for me, though.  There were humorous situations, and while I see this as part of Konrath's style, it seemed a little forced to me.  When I'm reading or watching a survival horror, I prefer the humor (if any) to be a lot more situational and relevant, and almost accidental.  Some of the jokes were great, and were signs of how people react under pressure.  There were just a couple that pulled me out of the moment a little, but not so much that I didn't go right back to devouring the book.

Because this is an indie ebook, the guys got to include a whole bunch of extras.  Short stories, previews, interviews, behind-the-scenes stuff.  It really reminded me of when DVDs came out, and movies could have so much more on them than just the feature.  As an author, I liked getting to see some of their creative process.  As a reader, I liked getting to know more about the four authors.

All in all, Draculas is a fantastic book, and very much worth buying.  It's dark, bloody, and a very quick read.  This would make a great movie, and I love seeing vampires as monsters again.  (Even though I write vampire romances, I still like monsters.)  If you like horror at all, you will enjoy this.

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