Out for Blood - John Peyton Cooke
Patchy. A gay vampire novel, so it has to be read, doesnít it? So why am I disappointed overall by this novel? I didnít find myself convinced by the gay aspects of the book for a start. Chris, the hero, is gay, but we donít really get to enjoy the benefits of this (neither does he all that much). Heís turned into a vampire, but somehow that is rather flat too. In this novel, vampires are very much like us, only they heal, donít die and drink blood (okay, not all that much like us!). But they arenít evil; they live normal lives and only take little sips of blood from hypnotised victims who arenít hurt by the experience.
Chris begins the book as a young man dying from leukaemia, bloated, weak and in terrible pain. He dreams of vampires and has been obsessed with vampire lore since a child. He discovers his dreams are real: heís being visited nightly by a vampire (female) in order to be turned. Once turned, he is restored to the beauty he originally had, with all his health and vigour. I should have been entranced by this transformation, but instead I found it a bit dishonest. Iím all for the idea of vampires and eternal life, but there was something just a little bit macabre about this very real disease being treated so lightly.
The vampires he joins are being hunted by a man who has discovered the restorative powers of their bloodóhe bathes in it to keep himself young. One by one, he picks them off the street and drains their blood. Chris has to find this man and destroy him.
It has the potential to be a terrific read, only Iíd guessed who the man was right at the beginning and the end, where the great rescue comes, had the dramatic tension of pasta. Sorry, this one just didnít do it for me, which was a huge disappointment given its promise!
(The cover of the book we bought had lost its cover. Just as well. I'm not sure we'd have bought it if we'd seen it. Isn't that the worst cover you've ever seen on a book?)
The notion of a shy young gay man suffering from acute leukaemia choosing to become a vampire rather than face death, then† realising what heíd given up along with his humanity, intrigued me.† Interesting that itís cancer and not AIDS heís dying from given the novel was written in 1991.
Iím afraid however the novel didnít grab me.† Though pedestrian itís not badly written.† There are good moments but overall itís bland and predictable, uninvolving.† Iíve read better and more imaginative vampire stories on the internet.† It doesnít compare with LadyMís best thatís for sure!†
I was able to pick the book up and put it down, and skimmed bits.† I guessed who the baddie was way before the annoyingly dense hero, and the big twist is too obvious, so there just wasnít enough tension.† I wasnít emotionally engaged and the main character is a pain, perhaps because heís underdeveloped, like all the characters.
What really put me off was that the vampires didnít seduce me (didnít think that was possible), mostly because they never got the chance.† The romance angle is tacked onto the end and REALLY doesnít work- itís laughable.† The annoying thing is thereís a better (and sexier) book lurking inside.
Chris is the 23 year old whoís dying.† An ordinary guy living in Chicago, enduring the sheer bloody awfulness of chemotherapy and trying to make the best of his limited options.† Yeah, I felt sorry for him, and with an imaginative stretch I could get behind the idea that a young chap already obsessed with vampires could actually meet one whoíd, for reasons of her own, provide him with what seems like the ideal solution.† Who in his position wouldnít choose eternal life, his health & strength restored along with the looks heíd lost to treatment side effects? †Especially when itís explained that these vampires donít kill their victims, just tap their blood and send them on their befuddled way.
Chris is sent on to another town to meet the master vampire, a 200+ year old Russian called Tamsik, who will be his mentor and teach the neophyte how to survive.† Chris discovers thereís a price to be paid for his freedom:† when he became a vampire his soul was destroyed (sounds familiar?!) and thereís a relentless vampire hunter on the loose called Stadler who tracks down everyone close to Tamsik.
Chris gets the background on Tamsik & Stadler through the Russianís memoirs, and thatís when I got really cross with this book.† Stadlerís violent homophobia indicates repression of gay desires that made him cruel and sadistic.† Thereís your story!
The one bit of the vampire mythology (otherwise fairly traditional) I liked was the vampire blood, called kroba, has healing powers and can be used by mortals as an elixir of eternal youth.† Itís typical of Chris that while heís easily persuaded to become a vampire heís freaked out by the idea of using poppers.† Iíd like to have seen developed the way Chris seems to despise (blame?) the previous generation of gay men, and how maybe fear of AIDS has turned him into this pathetic excuse for a gay man who doesnít see any erotic potential in being a vampire.† Sheesh.
This book is quite hard to find, and not worth the effort.†