Thursday, August 12, 2010
Thoughts on gothic vampires
I read a book yesterday. It was by an author who was not new to me. I've read Deanna Raybourne's "Silent" books and enjoyed them. This book, The Dead Travel Fast, is her newest release, and not in the same series as Raybourne's earlier books.
I have no idea of Raybourne's motives for writing this book, so I really don't want to guess. To me, it feels like it wants to be a vampire book like vampire books used to be before vampires got all sparkly and sexy. Like the original Bram Stoker Dracula.
The heroine is a small Englishwoman--she grew up in Edinburgh, but does not self-identify as Scottish--who travels to Transylvania in the mid-Victorian era to stay with a friend in anticipation of her marriage. The friend lives at the top of an isolated mountain as part of the Dragulescu family, but when the heroine gets there, she finds things are not what she expected. The friend is not marrying her count Dragulescu after all. And the heroine is quite attracted to the man.
About halfway through this book, I really had to drive myself to finish it. I just wasn't having any fun.
I read a review fairly early on, and decided it didn't really sound like the sort of book I enjoy, so I didn't hunt it up. However, I was at the local library earlier this week, looking for Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging, ran across it and decided--what the heck--it's at the library. I might as well read it.
Except I was right. It wasn't really my type of book. It was the kind of vampire book that reminded my why, for the most part, I really don't like vampire books much. And why I really don't like gothic novels much. It was all mood and atmosphere and language--and I'll be honest here--I really prefer clear, straightforward, workmanlike language with only flashes of artisticness. I am not much of a lover of lush prose. I don't hate it, but sometimes, I think it gets in the way. Or when used, you wind up with a book that's mostly atmosphere and not much substance. Which I really can't say about this--there is substance. But there's an awful lot of atmosphere and brooding and such.
There's a lot of "are there vampires, or is it only criminals trying to make you think there are?" and "Is the hero an evil vampire SOB, or a victim of his childhood?" That sort of thing. The sort of thing gothic romances are full of.
Gothic romances are famous for having a hero whom the heroine suspects of dastardly deeds. This one follows along those lines, although here it's mostly wondering whether vampires exist. I've always thought gothic heroines a little dim, because they were attracted to men they thought might be killers (or vampires?). Never have been able to get into that mindset.
There are a lot of people out there who like moody, atmospheric, gothic romance-type books. If you do--if you liked The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova--you'll probably like this book.
I am not a fan. (Did not like the Kostova book at all--this one is Much better than that one.) I know I'm not a fan, and yet I picked this book up anyway. It was wrong of me, and about halfway through, I knew it.
So, I am writing this I suppose to remind myself that I honestly do not enjoy gothic romances, or old-style vampire novels (I really don't like any horror books at all), and I prefer prose that's more straightforward than lush. So it's okay if I don't read them.
Really, there's nothing wrong at all with Raybourne's book. It's quite well done. But it's still a gothic, old-style vampire novel full of lushly lovely prose. Not my cup of tea.
Now, notice I'm not calling it crap, or trash, or anything of the sort. Nor am I bashing the taste and/or intellect of those who read it and loved it, unlike many of those who criticize the readers of romance and/or science fiction and fantasy. I'm just saying--it didn't work for me, and this is why. Everything is subjective. We just have to recognize our own areas of subjectivity, acknowledge them, and especially, admit that we ourselves are not the arbiters of all taste and good books and allow others their own preferences.
I guess you can tell I'm getting sick of romance bashers again. Anyway--The Dead Travel Fast--gothic vampire novel. You might like it, if you like that sort of thing. (Hey, it's better than The Historian, though it has much the same feel.)