Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Less Than Human

A while back, I made a mostly unfavorable post about Gary Raisor’s Sinister Purposes. Although the book was mostly acclaimed, it just didn’t resonate with me, and my opinion was by-and-large negative, which happens sometimes. I did, however, mention that I was impressed by Mr. Raisor’s writing style, and wanted to give his work another try. Ever since its initial publication in the early 90s, people have been telling me I should read his debut novel Less than Human, but for one reason or another, I’d never picked it up. Well, in the sense of fairness, I ordered a copy recently, and I’m happy I did. This is one kick-ass novel.

It opens with two characters, Steven and Earl, getting off a Greyhound bus and looking for a nearby pool hall, where Steven challenges a local legend to a game and beats her, after which his custom pool cue is stolen. This is a bigger deal than you might think, since Steven and Earl (mostly Steven) are members of a particularly vicious breed of vampire, and the cue contains dirt that could be used to kill Steven. They embark on a quest to recover the cue, and all who are in their path will pay a price for it.

Raisor’s writing is sharp here, and his descriptive ability is top-notch. During the opening scene from the bus to the pool hall, it was so well written I felt as if I was watching it happen. Raisor also invents an entirely new type of vampire, one that may well be a significant improvement on the traditional tropes. I particularly was fond of how the stories behind the evil characters were developed, so you could tell where Steven and Earl were coming from, and realize there was actually a great difference between them, which makes the conclusion of the book work.

If you prefer vampires who wear lace shirts, sip absinthe, and write pseudo-Romantic poetry, you probably won’t like Less Than Human. The bloodsuckers here are vicious, backwoods types who are more likely to dismember you than conduct a great romance. For this and other reasons, when I re-visit my list of my favorite vampire novels in the future, Less Than Human will be on it, probably in the top five. It’s that good

Less Than Human has been sporadically out of print since publication, but copies are still available through the Overlook Connection Press, which published it. And I hope Leisure, which publishes most of the mass market paperbacks sold now, and does a number of reprints, will take notice and add this to their line, so it may reach the wider market it deserves.

For my part, I’m looking forward to reading more by Gary Raisor. One day, I may have to re-read Sinister Purposes to find out if my initial impression was wrong.

1 comment:

Kent said...

Great novel. Right up there with I AM LEGEND as a favorite when it comes to vampire novels.

I didn't dislike Sinister Purposes so much as I thought it had lost all fun of LESS THAN HUMAN. Almost like he wanted to be shed of the Lansdale comparisons one can't help but find in LTH. Still, a talented writer and I'd love to see him take another crack at a slambang novel again.