The read undead
TONY searches a new pack of vampire and zombie books for signs of life.
Wed Apr 6 2011
Judging from the books sent our way, beyond some Dan Brown--influenced historical conspiracy thrillers and a few novels genteel enough for Oprah's Book Club, we have to conclude that the American reading public wants nothing but vampires. Well, vampires and zombies, with the occasional werewolf or witch thrown in.
Blame Stephanie Meyer for the glut, if you like (we prefer blaming Anne Rice, though by the same token we could just as easily blame Bram Stoker), but that won't stem the tide of new monster books spilling into publishing houses and bookstores. It's unclear exactly how long the fad will last, but we at TONY can no longer ignore the overflowing bin of supernatural romances, mash-ups and parodies in the corner of the office. So we unearthed a few samples to determine just how much writers have xeroxed, remixed and watered down the original legends, and to get a sense where they reside in this newly bloated corpse of a canon.
Bloodshot by Cherie Priest. Ballentine Books, $17. Release date: Jan 25.
The story: A gun-toting vampire jewel thief sets out to steal government documents about the project that made her client, and love interest, blind. Also, she's got "a psychotic... scientist on her trail, a kick-ass drag queen on her side, and Men in Black popping up at... inconvenient moments."
Representative quote: "I could've said things [to a fellow vampire] like, 'Christ, the other night I came this close to snacking on a trust-fund gothling...That's wrong of me, isn't it?' And then my vampire friend could say, 'Oh no, sweetheart, I've been there!'"
How it fits in the canon: It's a popcorn flick of a book, not Gothic horror—and more Bourne Identity than Underworld, at that. For the amount of bloodsucking that goes on, vampire is essentially a synonym for badass. Presumably, though, the author has heard of Bram Stoker.
Jane Goes Batty by Michael Thomas Ford. Ballantine Books, $14. Release date: Feb 1.
The story: Jane Austen, a secret vampire in modern-day New York, has written a novel that just may reveal her identity. Also, her boyfriend's mom thinks she's Jewish, she's being followed by a camera crew, and Charlotte Bront is threatening to destroy her.
Representative quote: "'I really am a vampire, right?' said Chloe. 'Because if I'm being punked, I'm going to be really pissed off.'"
How it fits in the canon: It's a shitstorm of ideas across multiple genres, but at least Ford's tongue is planted in his cheek (someone is spied wearing a Team Edward T-shirt). The book's chirpy tone owes more to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the first of this brand of mash-up, than to either Emma or Dracula.
Zombie Economics: A Guide to Personal Finance by Lisa Desjardins and Rick Emerson. Avery, $18. Release date: May 3.
The story: Zombies—that is, unhealthy financial decisions in a toxic economic environment—are out to get the reader. So everyone must "decapitate debt and fight the apocalypse of financial doom."
Representative quote: "When applying for a loan, a lender will consider both credit scores...yours and your zombie spouse's."
How it fits in the canon: George Romero never made anything as cute as the fork-and-brain icon that accompanies Zombie Economics' statistics. It's all a stretch, but how else are you going to sell a book about financial aid to people getting stoned and playing Red Dead Redemption?
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. Atria Books, $24. Release date: May 17.
The story: The zombie protagonist, R, falls in love with a living girl after eating her boyfriend's brain. Then he tries not to eat her brain.
Representative quote: "'You're sensational,' I croak... 'Oh wow,' she giggles.... 'That was beautiful, R, really. You and Zombie Sinatra should record Duets III.' I cough. 'Didn't get [to] warm up.'"
How it fits in the canon: It's got the boarded-up strongholds and mob mentality of Night of the Living Dead—but also romance.As the evil thing resists its evil nature, the book neuters zombies in the same way Stephanie Meyer did vampires. Unsurprisingly, Meyer loves, and blurbs, Warm Bodies.
Bloody Valentine by Melissa de la Cruz. Hyperion, $15. Release date: Dec 28.
The story: This is one volume in a series of linked novellas following the love lives of Upper East Side "Blue Blood" vampires Oliver, Allegra and Schuyler.
Representative quote: "'Wine?' the female vampire asked, holding up a crystal decanter from the glass-topped bar. 'I'm all right, thanks.' 'Relax, I won't bite.' She laughed. 'At least, not yet.'"
How it fits in the canon: It's for teenagers who like Twilight okay, but want a little more Gossip Girl, some class friction and, like, dialogue tossed in.
Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? by Max Brallier. Gallery Books, $16. Release date: Feb 8.
The story: You, the reader, are a 25-year-old Manhattan office drone. Zombies descend. Your goal in this Choose Your Own Adventure-style book is simple: Survive.
Representative quote: "The ladder is pulled up and the helicopter flies away, headed downtown. 'Game of Madden?' the Ardle asks. You return to your beach chair. 'Def.'"
How it fits in the canon: It's a splatterfest that does a pretty good job of aping the style of the original Choose Your Own Adventure books—albeit with 330% more instances of the word "fuck." Acutely self-aware to the point of distraction, in one scene it even namechecks a slew of recent zombie books from Max Brooks's World War Z to The Walking Dead. George Romero even makes an appearance as the zombie overlord in one of the story's endings.