Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"that's someone else's blood!"

i do have thoughts to post about the neha meeting on saturday and anna's and my trip to vermont in general, but i want to wait to put them up until i get my roll of film developed and see if any of the photos i took are worth scanning and using as illustrations. over all, the trip was very pleasant and the conference most enjoyable. no sign of anyone letting ego/professional disappointment win over common sense/politeness.

coming home the other day, i took advantage of a somewhat delayed t-ride to finish david wellington's 99 coffins, the (unavoidable) sequel to 13 bullets. i say "unavoidable" more as a commentary on the apparent impossibility of anyone writing genre fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, dark fantasy, steampunk, etc.) to write a single book. standalones are verboten apparently. who knew? some series aren't so series-like, admittedly: china mieville's books (apart from king rat, un lun dun, and the city & the city) share a common world and mention many of the same landmarks -- new crobuzon and its geographic environs -- but often aren't continuous in the same way that, say, george r.r. martin's or terry goodkind's are. not all series are evil, of course; there are lots i like, but i also have to say i've grown to value an author who writes a good book and is satisfied to leave it alone. borrow characters if you must; re-use place if you have to; but don't just "continue the story so brilliantly begun in..." forever and ever and ever. when i was a kid i thought sequels were just the best thing ever; now i'm not so sure.

anyway, 99 coffins is a good sequel. :) wellington's writing has gotten steadily better since his debut with monster island which was a slightly awkward zombie thriller; good, solid writing but strangely...stiff at points -- still absolutely worth reading, though. 99 coffins is a steady step-up from 13 bullets -- the main character, laura caxton, is forced back into her vampire-hunter-role when, really, she'd rather be with her new girlfriend and her new job. this time, the entire town of gettysburg is in danger from the threatened revivification of 99 vampires, found buried in skeletal form in what had been thought to be a forgotten confederate powder store. not so much with the powder, it appears, but all sorts of vampire-y goodness!

it's interesting to consider wellington's vampires -- pale, cold, red-eyed, often pointy-eared, inhumanly strong, with a tendency to become next-to-bulletproof just after eating, and with lots and lots and lots of teeth -- with an article recently published in esquire by stephen marche which claims that the popularity of vampires in recent literature can be explained by sex: "Vampires have overwhelmed pop culture because young straight women want to have sex with gay men."

a ridiculous proposition, of course, on multiple levels -- and the article really just gets better from there -- but particularly funny if you've just finished reading coffins or, indeed, bullets. one of the climatic scenes in bullets (skip this sentence if you don't like spoilers) involves caxton's former lover, now vampire, coming to try and convince caxton to let herself be turned vampire so that they can be together as undead killers for all eternity. somehow, though, the pervasive stink of blood and rot, together with the rows of sharks-teeth, manage to put caxton off the idea. amazing, that. and while there is sex in wellington's books, i'd say you're pretty safe in thinking that anyone who thought one of his vampires was a good choice for a night-time cuddle would be better off in a padded room than walking the streets. sex is mostly dangerous in this particular world, as it is in many horror novels; one of the vampires in bullets, for example, has apparently fixated on caxton as a potential victim because she's gay and he has carried over an obsession with lesbians and lesbian sex from his human existence.

anyway -- read marche's article if you want a good snicker, but read 99 coffins 'cause it's really, really good. the pacing suffers a bit in the middle -- there's some time spent wandering around when you're not quite sure where you're going to end up -- but the last third is a spectacular action sequence and a great cliffhanger for the next book. caxton steps up as a worthy heroine and a fairly able vampire-hunter.

and as a last thought, this list from entertainment weekly, normally the provider of fairly entertaining lists, of the 20 all-time coolest heroes in pop culture. the only one which really gives me pause is mad max; i can't look at mel gibson anymore without wincing.

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