Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Review: Vampire Zero

Filed under: Art,Fun,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:23 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I finished Vampire Zero by David Wellington Friday night.

Vampire Zero is the third, and apparently last, book in the vampire series by Wellington that started with Thirteen Bullets and was followed by Ninety-nine Coffins.  I’ve already reviewed those here and, if you read those reviews, you’ll know that I think David Wellington has done a great job reinventing the vampire genre with his vision of the vampire as monster.  But, to me, that’s worth repeating, because I really hate the humanization and romanticizing of vampires that’s gone on in modern literature.  Wellington’s vampires, though, are monsters.  They’re like bipedal sharks who live on blood and think as well as humans and have their own form of culture.  But, they are like sharks.  They’re predators and they hunt humans.

In Vampire Zero, Wellington presents us with the last vampire hunter, Pennsylvania State Trooper Laura Caxton, who’s trying to hunt down her old mentor, Jameson Arkeley.  In 99 Coffins, he took on the vampire curse to help Caxton lay the brood of Civil War era vampires to rest, because she just couldn’t quite manage it herself.  In that book, Arkeley claimed he would dispatch those beasties, and then turn himself in to Caxton for his own execution.  As you might imagine, he wasn’t quite able to pass that final test and retreated out into the world.  Naturally, Caxton is the only one really qualified to hunt and kill vampires, so she ends up trying to track Arkeley down before he gives into the bloodlust of the vampire curse and starts killing humans, or, worse, starts making more vampires.   Before he becomes “Vampire Zero”.  The term, of course, is derived from regular epidemiology, where “patient zero” is the first known case from which all other cases of a disease derived.  In this case, however, the disease is even more deadly than anything we’ve ever imagined.

Naturally, she doesn’t quite manage to stop Arkeley from making more than one new vampire, but it’s a long, twisty ride to that point.  Caxton stays hot on her former mentor’s trail, becoming more and more like him along the way.  She even becomes a Special Deputy U.S. Marshall, just like Arkeley was before he turned.  The difference, of course, is that Caxton can see what’s happening.  She can see how she’s becoming harder and colder and more driven, while caring less and less about other people’s feelings, as she gets closer to her mentor-turned-vampire, in more ways than one.  But, she also has to fight the system, the bureaucrats, the paper-work and the less motivated public servants.  It’s no easy job, even for someone far less human and caring than Laura Caxton.
It’s brilliant work.  Both Caxton’s and Wellington’s.  The writing and the story are both really, really engaging and compelling.  No less so for the fact that humanity’s future may well hang in the balance.  Something, incidentally, that Caxton is quite aware of pretty much all the time.  But, Wellington’s writing and Caxton’s awareness don’t distract from the action at all.

In short, this is a great ending to a great series.  Though, the way the book ends, there is room for a sequel.  At least one more.  I hope Wellington writes that eventually.  I do love his work and these books.
So, hopefully, I’ve given you enough warm, fuzzy feelings about a vampire book and series to get you to check out Vampire Zero, after hitting the other two books, of course.  It was a damn fine read.


Review: 99 Coffins

Filed under: Fun,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:23 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I stayed up late Saturday night to finish reading 99 Coffins by David Wellington.

As you may have guessed from both my predilections and the title, this is a vampire story. In fact, it’s the second in a series by David Wellington, who is a relatively new voice in horror fiction. At least, he’s part of what I think of as the “hot, young turks” who have used the Internet and blogs to promote their own work quite effectively. Wellington’s brilliant first vampire novel, 13 Bullets, which is the first in this series, was originally released on a blog. I found it via Amazon, while looking for something new and interesting to read. 99 Coffins is just as exciting and engaging as 13 Bullets, and that’s saying something.

Wellington has created a new kind of vampire. Or, rather, he’s reimagined the traditional monsters in a new way that updates them, makes them different and interesting, but doesn’t make them any less monstrous or any more romantic and “human”. In short, these are the best vampires and vampire novels I’ve read since Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Yes, I think they’re that good.
Wellington gives us vampires that are two-legged, thinking, reasoning land-sharks that can speak to humans and command awesome personal power. They’re deadly and smart and the best and worst of our natures crossed with an insatiable thirst for human blood. In 13 Bullets, there was just one active vampire to start with. In 99 Coffins, there’s also just one, but with a twist.

The book opens with a historical dig on a Gettysburg battlefield. No one expects to find much, since this area has been heavily mined by archaeologists and is pretty well documented. However, a grad student digs up a mystery; a hidden cellar under an old gunpowder magazine filled with coffins. An interesting enough find on its own, the historical mystery is made even more interesting by the fact that each coffin holds the skeleton of what are obviously vampires. Thankfully, they all seem to have had their hearts removed making them almost totally harmless. Of course, even a sleeping, crippled vampire is never completely harmless.
That’s why the local authorities call in former U.S. Marshall Jameson Arkeley and his erstwhile protege, Pennsylvania State Trooper Laura Caxton, the last two vampire killers who exist. Arkeley is old and crippled from their last encounter with these toothed horrors and Caxton just wants to forget about it. She’s done her bit to protect humanity and now she just wants to serve the State of Pennsylvania and her people. But, neither Arkeley nor the newest vampire to prowl the streets will let her forget. At first, she just agrees to give Arkeley a ride to the site and be his eyes, but when she sees the 99 coffins, each with its sleeping vampiric skeleton, and the one smashed coffin, she can’t just walk away. Oh, she tries, to be sure, but when that one missing vampire attacks her on the street in scenic Gettysburg, she can’t just leave the local police to try and handle something they don’t even believe exists.

As you might imagine, it’s an uphill battle for Trooper Caxton, the last vampire hunter. Not only does she have to fight the vampire, but also ignorance, bureaucracy, local politics, vampire “fans”, and her own fears. Her struggles are interspersed with notes and letters from people involved with the historical vampires in those other coffins. The tales intertwine to tell a frightening story indeed. A story far older than the Battle of Gettysburg.
I won’t ruin the story by giving you more detail than that, but, let me assure you, it’s well worth the price of the book. Wellington is a wonderful writer, giving just the right level of detail while keeping the action moving along wonderfully well. Of course, I knew that from having read the first book in this series and I like his work so well, that I bought the third in this series already and have piled it on with the rest of my “to read” books.

If you’re a fan of vampire books at all, you have to get 99 Coffins by David Wellington and read it. Of course, you’ll want to start with 13 Bullets, but, once you’ve read that, if you don’t want to read the rest of the series, I’ll be amazed. Seriously, David Wellington is one of the best new authors I’ve read in the past several years and his vampire stories are absolutely wonderful. I promise, if you’re looking for a new take on an old monster, you’ll love these books.

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