Monday, September 13, 2010

[Anthology Review] Evolve: Part 4

An Ember Amongst the Fallen by Colleen Anderson [A]

An Ember Amongst the Fallen isn't trademark vampire story; it leans more on alternative Earth as genre. Anderson asks 'What if vampire were the dominant species?', 'What if the human species had not evolved and established their own civilization?'. The answer is this Planet of the Apes meets Daybreakers [at least concept-wise] to give an inside look into this new reversed culture.

The setting is a dinner party, with its ups and downs, personal drama and conflicts. I have to admit that a dinner party is convenient to explore a brand new society with the vampire as the head species. Through Buer's preparations as the host and the story's protagonist I learned how vampirii add flavor to their blood. How they eat, having never to hide. With the party's progression I was introduced to their form vegetarians in the face of Jeanine, an activist and supporter of humans.

Anderson touches on topics such as work, marriage, reproduction, relationships and even religion is hinted with the sentence 'God is known as the Great Deceiver'. Humans in turn are treated as cattle, though we do play the part. There's no sign humans to have developed speech or any cognitive ability to separate us from animals. As the vampirii's sole diet, the hominids are raised in farms and locked in cages. Hominids are to vampirii what cows are to us and that is a pretty morbid reversal of roles.

But I sidetrack. The actual story in-between all these succulent bits of worldbuilding is far from action-packed. It's a dinner party, where Buer hopes to rekindle an old flame, but finds that it's a dead end and in his desperation commits one of the worst taboos in the Book of the Fallen [yes, the Bible]. It's all rather atmospheric and well threaded, but to be honest I loved this for Anderson's skill to ornate a snippet of a moment with an infinite amount of trivia from an uncharted world.

Mama's Boy by Sandra Wickham [A]

I'm ecstatic about Wickam's story, because in the manner of several pages, she gives an interesting angle to the vampire mythology, sketches a likable leading female and in the vein of bloody supernatural horror adds mischievous cruelty. It's bloody, short and grizzly sweet.

The scene: A couple expecting their first born and the mother giving home birth. All is so far not so weird, but the dad reveals he's a vampire and as per custom the mother gets to be the child's first meal. The story is pretty straightforward and I'll leave you to see how it all culminates and why exactly the newborn is a mama's boy.

I had a few gripes with the story. I wanted it to be longer, even though that in its state it could not been anything longer than what it is. I wanted to have a few questions answered as well. Why do vamps breed the way they breed? Are they natural telepaths or do only a select few have that skill? What makes this mother so special in order for the natural law to alter in her favor? What about the father? Did he ever love his wife? I know that this is not the purpose of this short. It's a 10 minute fun thrill-ride with a twist and a darn good one at that.

The Morning After by Claude Bolduc [D]

The moment I read The Morning After I wasn't particularly smitten or intrigued at worst. The prose left me cold. It moved the plot, but didn't captivate. Perhaps it sounds better in its native French, as the language is regarded for its mellifluence.

A woman wakes up to find her eyes missing and tries to establish what has transpired the night before. She follows a pavement and then a wall until she encounters a rapist, whom she in turn murders and steals his eyeballs. She manages to find a main street, but it's too late as the morning has crept through and reduces her to ash.

At first reading The Morning After seems purposeless. A newborn vampire prowls the city, unaware of her nature only to not survive her first night. I still can't see anything that fits or contributes to the theme. This newborn vampire is ticks all the checkboxes as far as vampires go, because this is the vampire firmly lodged into our culture.

However, I tried to look into this a bit more and discovered two very interesting elements. For one, the vampire is deprived of the most important human sense: sight. I read this as a disconnection from the world and the need to rediscover the world through a new sense. I also see how this tied to being a newborn predator, since many mammals are born blind. Is it that the author sees vampires as more animalistic, I can't really tell. Second, the night and day symbolism, which gives the city a certain Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde persona that is not so new. But with the coming of the day the vampire is not safe in a hideout. On the contrary, it gets purged. Even so, I am not entirely impressed with this one.

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