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Those Damned Vampires

In October Weeks' novel, “The Damned,” we have the traditional plot of a vampire hunter on the trail of a vampire. Actually, our heroine, Tuck Houston, is a vampire slayer, complete with supernatural, vampire-fighting abilities of her own. She has super-strength, she sees well in the dark, and she has the ability to detect the presence of the Undead. Hmm, I think Josh Whedon's copyright lawyers might have some objection to this. (There are even characters here named Wesley and Riley. And Tuck's nickname is “Ripper”.)

There seem to be three races or types of vampires, the strigoi, the vampyr, and the Damned. Not sure of the distinction, other than strigoi seem more powerful, can read minds, and can walk by day. The Damned make up for it by being more psychopathic. The vampyr feed but never kill and can also walk by day. Since there is a biological connection between slayers and the various vampires, it leads to some awkward politics between them.

Now there is a war between the strigoi and the Damned, battling for Penelope, who is of both bloodlines and possesses the best and worst qualities of both bloodlines. Slayers like Tuck are trapped in the middle.

Except this is not Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That show made its characters real and their dialog was clever. Here, everything they say is pretentious. And they had an existence outside of the slayage. Tuck has no life outside of dealing with vampires and she spends less time training than bragging about her training. I can’t say I care what happens to her.

The cover assures the reader that this is the first in a series of adventures about Tuck. Reading it, you might think you've been dropped in the middle of a long-running series. Tuck has a complicated history with the various characters and we are given a lot of back-story. By chapter three, the reader is playing catch-up trying to piece together the various slayer, vampyr, strigoi, and Damned characters. A chart showing the relationships of the primary eight or ten characters would have helped.

Also, it would be easier to keep track of the characters from eight hundred years ago if they had the kinds of names from that time. Vampires are, after all, stuck in their time-period.

I found no misspellings or critical errors. I did find many run-on sentences: “Walking across the high-end hardwood floors spread over the entire room, Tuck sat herself down on a chair, kicking her wet boots up on the edge of the bed and placing her pure silver knives on her thighs, which had been sheathed at her waist under her hooded sweatshirt.” And: “The rising sun was just washing over the city when it came into view minutes after the tunnel, a beautiful golden glow touching both the gothic and modern architecture.” That could have been a beautiful line had it been edited better.

And really, can we not come up with a better name for a group of vampires than The Damned? It leads to some bizarre sentences like, “A sense of power swept the room—Damned power. Lots of it.” or “For a split second, she saw Penelope, the beautiful Damned disappearing into the dark” or my favorite, “Goddamn Damned!”

There are some very good ideas in “The Damned” but since I don't like any of the characters, I don't care if they are suffering. This is unfortunate because when the writing is not pretentious or awkward, it can be evocative.

3 stars.

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