Remember when I broke my front teeth and considered joining a vampire coven? After reading Ancient Enemies, I have reconsidered this option because of the highly developed level of political intrigue running rampant in covens. If I ever become a vampire, I intend to fly solo to better soothe my introverted nature. I’m pretty sure Rich would be able to put up with the new lifestyle. He’s so far managed to accept the writer’s life and the strange dinner conversations this breeds, so he’d probably barely notice if I took things one step further. He’d do especially well with the blood drinking, since he rarely comments anymore when I consume something from the refrigerator that is long past its due date. It’s unclear where the Greg Diet would rank blood drinking according to the Bullock nutrition equation, but maybe consuming a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables could allay any negative effects. However, I am almost certain that including non-blood meals would rank me as a poor vampire.
Perhaps there is a place for those who assume the mantle of lord of the night, but who lack the charisma and unnatural grace bestowed on these creatures by Bram Stoker, Ann Rice and Stephenie Meyer. I’ve always been a big fan of the Seanachai’s “The Vampire in the Attic” and I would probably be undead at about the same level of proficiency – on the skids, feeding off inebriated college students and singing along drunkenly to bad 70’s music while squatting in someone’s attic. (N.B.: The music choice is probably where Rich would draw the line.) Unfortunately, after a full review of the current literature, the Seanachai’s vampire appears to be the exception. If Brian McKinley’s vampires are any indication, there is a strong selective pressure to look cool if you want to join the ranks of the undead, and that includes a wardrobe that displays a heavy goth influence. As a writer, I have become extremely fond of wearing sweats in the colder months and t-shirts and shorts when the weather heats up. Besides the politics, the dresscode more than anything else holds me back from the nosferatu lifestyle.
Fashion statements aside, what I like about Ancient Enemies are the spurts of humor, sometimes even giving the reader a chuckle at the expense of the vampire mythos. The most compelling reason to read the story are the main characters, Avery and Caroline. They are imperfect and this makes them highly relatable. Sure, fledgling Avery is equipped with some degree of vampire competence and a burgeoning psychic ability that he works hard to improve – in the same breath, he has an eating disorder and is struggling to come into his own as a recently created vampire. Caroline is Avery’s maker and she is in way over her head as the acting Hegemon of North America. Keeping up with the games and machinations of the much older and politically savvy vampires is a drain on her psyche and a soul-sucking experience, even for the undead. Caroline is forced to camouflage herself in power suits and confident body language to survive this environment.
Both characters are riddled with insecurities and self-doubt. But hey, who wouldn’t be insecure, living in a world where power-hungry Hegemons rule through dark influence and unvarnished violence? Where assignations frequently lead to assassinations? Where everyone’s motives are suspect and infiltrating neighboring powers is a way of life? Reading the story is like being at the court of the Medici’s or eating dinner with upper management. Beneath the thin veneer of civilized discourse lies a savage intent for personal advancement. It makes you want to check your tolerance for iocane powder.
I have given some thought as to how the psychopomp in Soul Search would respond to these vampires. Given her ennui for all things mortal, she would cast a weary eye at these quasi-immortals and wonder at their continued facination for the games of the living. In their defense, the extant vampires are quite young, having been around for only a portion of the time that humans have existed, so perhaps this behavior is understandable. For them, the amusements gained through iterative power struggles and domination have not yet gone stale. In contrast, because life and death go hand in hand, psychopomps have existed since the first self-replicating molecules evolved to a level of sufficient complexity to become aware of their own passing. Such a long tenure of existence leaves little that is still amusing…but, a well-placed bag of flaming dog poo, just where these vampires will emerge when the sun goes down, this might even now elicit a chuffing, canine giggle. What can I say? Our psychopomp is a complex creature, a mixed bag of sophistication and a lowbrow sense of humor. I’ve found there is very little that I can do about that. Apologies in advance to the affected vampires.
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