Friday, January 2, 2009

Fear Me

As I've said before, sooner or later, every horror writer takes a stab at a vampire story. The vampire is, after all, the most enduring creation of the genre. When the time comes to take his or her shot, the writer has two choices: he can embrace the basic tropes of vampire fiction, following the template more or less laid down in Dracula by Bram Stoker (Best example: Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot) or he can retain the basic concept underlying the vampire, but ignore the old rules and try to take it in a new direction (Dan Simmons’ Carrion Comfort). The second option is the least common, as it presents more risks. Stephen Laws’ book Fear Me takes the second of these two options.

The vampire in Fear Me is named Gideon. Rather than feed on blood, he replenishes himself through sexual intercourse, which slowly drains his victims until they die prematurely aged. Gideon has the power to control his victims and force them to submit to his will. He is immortal, but not in the traditional sense. Every twenty years, he sires seven sons by seven of his victims. The sons are all born on the same day, and when they reach twenty, they are compelled to fight each other to the death. When there is only one survivor, Gideon “replaces” that person in the new body, and thus lives on. The novel follows two parallel paths that meet at the end. One concerns three female victims of Gideon, while the other concerns one of his sons, who has reached the age where he must fight his half-siblings.

Although the erotic side of vampirism has often been explored, this was a fresh, enjoyable take on the subject. Gideon is an excellent villain, and you develop a true rooting interest in the struggle against him. My one quibble is we don’t get to know much about Gideon, and I would have liked to have explored more of his past and the nature of his existence. But this is a slight complaint, and overall, I would heartily recommend the book, especially to those readers who are tired of the traditional bloodsuckers.

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