Friday, September 17, 2010

[Anthology Review] Evolve: Part 5

All you can eat, all the time by Claude Lalumiere [A]

First impressions often deceive and this story threatened to be another flop. The protagonist, simply named, Jenny opens the story with an elaborate description of her party attire, which then progresses into a depiction of a party night on the town. Jenny pointlessly overindulges in the use of the words ‘like’, ‘really’ and ‘totally’. Not a promising start, considering how unlikeable the character is. However, upon completion I can say that this shallow person only confirms Lalumiere’s skill with characterization and creating something memorable from elements that made me groan at the beginning.

Halfway through I was still uninspired by the story. Jenny is a party-girl. Her heartbeat is in sync with that of the city’s club life. One night she is assaulted by three men, who in turn get killed by none other than her mysterious and anti-social neighbor. Subsequently, Jenny does the most logical thing and establishes contact with this man and discovers his vampire nature. I assumed a romance was in its early stages, because the neighbor’s described as good looking and he grants his meals earth-shattering orgasms. The vampire’s full disclosure about how all the trivia and movie myths are fiction, didn’t help the story, which didn’t add anything new to the genre.

Then it all turned 180 degrees. The build-up towards a cliché resolution and conclusion lead to an extra-ordinary twist, which impressed me. For the sake of not giving any more spoilers I will keep my mouth shut about everything. The bottom line is that Lalumiere delivers what the theme demands and then some. Because I can’t give you the ending doesn’t mean that I can’t tease you. Lalumiere explores themes such as the loss of self and of memory tied to immortality, which adds realism to the concept of ancient immortals. He also has found a way to keep the vampire an accepted element in human society without arousing suspicion.

I bet you want to read it now.

Alia’s Angel by Phea Rose [B]

Alia’s Angel introduces a softer side to vampires. In the vein of Daybreakers, vampirism is a viral infection. STD, to be exact, which is curios, because it shows how much vampirism is associated with sexuality, the libido and here promiscuity is the cause of vampirism. As such, vampires are genetically enhanced humans, thus more relatable. The protagonist is a newly diseased and has yet to accustom herself to her hunger, which is why she denies it.

Starved she can manifest the ability to fly and usually finds herself crashed in an abandoned warehouse under the care of a street urchin named Alia. However on her latest visit, Alia is joined by a young boy, who has information on vampires as a species and about how to kill them. The boy poisons the vampire with harmful blood and although the story ends with hints as to what happens off-stage, the protagonist has changed the way only the proximity to death can force a change.

Alia’s Angel is not remarkable as it touches on known tropes such as vampirism as a disease, the vampire as a traffic figure [alone and misunderstood] as well as the inner transition from apathy to desire for life. But what I enjoyed and believe to have added something new to the same old was a small worldbuilding touch. What caught my eye was color symbology and its role in the world. Vampires wear only white, until their first kill. Before then, all other colors [especially red] irritates their skin. I interpret this as the color code for the sacrifice of human innocence [white] and acceptance of the new nature [red is associated with blood and is therefore the unofficial vampire color]. Only when the vampire accepts this, can he/she be anything else. Another way of looking at this is like murderous deflowering, in order to keep with the sexual aspect of vampirism. White can stand for purity and virginity [metaphorically] and red is the introduction to the carnal world.

The second element is part of the story. The roles of child and adult have been switched. The vampire is the naïve one, the innocent, the one who makes promises out of good will without knowing whether they could be kept. The small boy is the one who knows better, who has to eliminate the threat. While not heart-breaking, this is touching and makes the story stand out as far as themes go.
When I’m Armoring my Belly by Gemma Files [A]

This story was my first taste of Gemma Files and I utterly fell for her writing. Right from the title I knew that this would be something else, something entirely different. My intuition did not mislead me. When I’m Armoring my Belly opens with a tantalizing tidbit about how the protagonist has forgotten his name, which is then followed by a startling orgy, in which the narrator [later revealed as Benjamin] is subjugated to violence and depravity to bring pleasure to the vampires.

To them Benjamin is a fuck-toy, their food source and designated driver. This however does not bother him at all. In true sadistic-masochistic dependency, Benjamin demands the all sins be committed to his body, which acts as a canvas and the scars as a brutal art form, while the vampires desire to lose their animalistic qualities through each blow they inflict. This doesn’t sound like much, but this is because I am giving it without the prose, without the context and without the experience.

Files presents vampires as beasts. Yes, they’re intelligent enough to remain a secret to our society and cunning in their hunting, but during the climax of their cruelty and savagery they come off as predators, as less than human, not really superior. Benjamin is also a half-breed, cradling two worlds. The dhampir as a concept is not really new, so it doesn’t raise eyebrows, but under Files’ pen this creature conceived in pain and raised in hatred intrigues. First, with the brutality from his mother’s side and then with his further addiction to pain.

The highlight is the actual evolution, which is summed up in this little theory:

And it’s only after the half-breed dines on the predator that a new species altogether emerges.

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