Friday, September 3, 2010

[Review Anthology] Evolve: Part 2

Foreword: Because I 'organized' my books so darn well, I can't seem to find my copy, so I’m not in the position to include quotes for this part of the review. I hope to have the book found until next week’s installment and even have examples inserted. Also, I want to warn that I may have featured some spoilers along the way.

Resonance by Mary E. Choo: B [bordering on C]

Once you take away the mystique from the vampire, the wars between covens or other races, the magic and the paranormal, the writer and reader are left with a peculiar minority, whose social integration relies on secrecy for the fear of discrimination.

Choo does exactly that. She bypasses the supernatural themes in favor for a more realistic depiction of vampires. Perhaps the author's intention was for the reader to see the vampire as a human; without the glamour, the perfection and the allure. Through Peg, a vampire from the Group, Choo dispels the romantic, gothic charm of existential tragedy, but inserts the modern suburban/thriller drama of today.

Peg is helpless and can do nothing but obey the Group, which sounds like every ominous, shady corporation represented in modern cinema. The Group exerts control over every vampire and this status quo won't be changing soon. I enjoyed the modernization of vampire society as Choo strays away from covens and councils [classic, but still popular depiction in today's literature]. Aristocracy is interchanged with the white collar elite, which acts as a ruling unit. She uses terms such as the 'group' and the 'board', which used as euphemisms, sound even more spine-chilling.

Back to the actual story, Peg is forced to relocate as she comes close to revealing her, and that of all the other vampires, nature. This is painful for Peg as she has found a home in this peaceful suburbia and a friend in a young musician. As Peg maneuvers through the factions, trying to foil the Groups intentions for her, a shift within the Group occurs. A revolution bides its time and at the story's end evolution has entered into its next phase. This fits the anthology's theme. Maybe vampires have not yet evolved, but are starting to adopt new concepts about their place in the world. Think of the Sookie Stackhouse books to imagine in what direction vampires will be heading for.

However, I found the prose diminish the effect of the concept. It was flat in the sense that it was not that special and did not make me turn the page. For me, the climax was even, without any emotional involvement on my side. I was intrigued to what may happen, but did not care whether the Group got what they wanted or whether Peg came out alive and victorious.

The New Forty by Rebecca Bradley: A

Rebecca Bradley piqued my interest, because I had to really think how this story stays true to the anthology's theme. The New Forty is a quirky story [if not without a small pinch of macabre] about age in times, when beauty at all costs is worshipped, told through the eyes of an unconventional vampire.

From the angle of vampire evolution, however, this short story embraces a new meaning and depth. The narrator is a vampire by mistake. A crone during the middle ages, the narrator was turned by accident, perhaps even as a perverse joke. The reader [I] learned all about her life story as it trickled in retrospective glimpses as additional commentary to an Oprah episode, where Oprah interviews a vampire. I could not help but think that this is a nod to Anne Rice’s ‘Interview with the Vampire’, since what happens in this story can be considered as an alternative continuation Rice’s novel, if reporter Daniel Malloy went public with the interview.

At first glance, I considered this an obvious story. The Secret Vampire, hidden from the public eye, transitioned into the Society Vampire, a known element in the world's cultural mechanism. Yet as the narrator's accounts continue, I became convinced that although the vampires’ interaction with the world has changed their nature remains the same. No change in character, whatsoever.

The actual metamorphosis lies within the world's perception of the narrator and vice versa. The vampires' heightened vanity and specific attitude towards age create a distilled mirror model of how our human society treats beauty. Namely, as an essential asset to ensure a full integration into the social mechanism. However, while vampires cling to youth and beauty for apparent reason [arthritis for eternity is not people picture immortality], humans have stretched the definition of beauty. Today people beyond their physical zenith can be considered desirable. This allows the once shunned narrator to benefit from what the world has to offer.

In a sense, this is a private evolution based on shifting morals and aesthetics of the time and day.

Red Blues by Michael Skeet B

Sometimes reading is understanding, sharing the writer's ideas, appreciating the inventive incentive [intentional rhyme] and applauding the maze-like plot lines. Other times, reading is dipping your finger into someone else's soul as sappy and obscene as it sounds. You don’t face a plot, but a feeling. When you are done reading you are left with no articulate explanation as to what you have read and whether it accomplishes anything. This of course is because there is not that much conflict involved, with which I think I am being brainwashed recently.

Such is the case here. The enigmatic feeling [if I can call it that] is intensified by the POV used for narration. I'm talking about the not too popular 2nd person. As a POV it is by rule of thumb awkward for the reader, since the author is tailoring the reader into the shoes of a character. It can sometimes work, but mostly it’s alien, especially when the story is speculative. For me it was uncomfortable, since I’m accustomed to being a voyeur and not an acting force. However, this is easily overlooked by Skeet's prose, which is much like opium. Intoxicating and slow winding in a most lyrical manner.

Through the lush prose, I was submerged into the world of jazz and a vampire musician, who seduces his meals with his music. I couldn't at that time help, but consider this an inversion of the sirens' myth. The man luring the woman to her imminent demise. It was subtle and perhaps it’s only me and my love of Greek mythology imagining things. I did pick up a few of questions along the way. Why did he choose this tiresome ritual? How has this vampire evolved, given the context of the anthology? These are left mostly untouched, unwanted, unimportant.

I read about a vampire courting his meal, while he theorizes about music and math [to my utter and absolute horror] and that was that. If I was more knowledgeable in jazz, I would have had a totally different experience, which would have most likely changed this review into high praise. But since I am not, the story felt as if I was peeking through curtains into a smoke-filled room and not understanding what exactly I was seeing.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails