Now that the past few (very busy) weeks are behind me, I can focus on reviewing Jim McDoniel’s An Unattractive Vampire, which I finished a few weeks ago.
It’s the second of three winners from Inkshares’s Sword and Laser contest—the first being The Life Engineered—and is a pleasure to read.
An Unattractive Vampire is a humorous swing of the pendulum, a witty response to a zeitgeist flooded with angsty teenage vampires who are no longer monstrous, no longer the stuff of horror. It is a guffaw in the face of the “sexy vampire” that boldly states, “you think that’s a vampire?! THIS is a vampire!”
And yet, there is angst, and kitsch, and a healthy number overly-sexualized teenage vampires in An Unattractive Vampire. And it all serves to move along an active, interesting, quickly-paced plot that rewards the reader greatly.
It follows an unlikely trio, orphaned siblings, the older sister—a nurse—acting as guardian of her overly curious and prodigiously intelligent younger brother, and an ancient horror, a vampire named Yulric Bile.
When Yulric discovers that the new world he’s awoken to is one that finds him more gross than frightening, one where monstrosities called “automobiles” can put some serious hurt on you, regardless of your immortality, he gets into a funk. He’s depressed. So he does what any self-respecting vampire would do: loafs around on the couch watching cheesy television dramas about vampires, their sparkly, godlike bodies, and their tangled love lives. Then, it turns out the vampires in the TV show are real, and Yulric resolves to change the public perception of the vampire to its original, horrifying state.
It doesn’t go exactly according to plan.
McDoniel’s writing is strong, conversational, almost conspiratorial at times, punctuated by witty footnotes and parenthetical asides that add additional color to a joke every few pages. He uses character voice to great effect, illustrating how absurd many of our modern comforts are by showing them through the eyes of an immortal curmudgeon.
While I read Vampire, I often thought about how much fun it must have been to write. I hope that for McDoniel it was at least half as fun as it was to read. There were times that the misperception-fueled jokes felt forced (for instance, I think that “mysterious pad of eye” might have been too far, whereas “the odd tabula looked nothing like an eyepatch” might have served better”), but those moments were few and far between.
McDoniel wrote a delightful, funny, irreverent, and poignant book about the absurdity—and inevitability—of evolving mythologies. I encourage you to pick up An Unattractive Vampire. It’s well worth your time. (Clicking and buying from that link helps support the Warbler!)