"Money was maliciously introduced in ancient times as a tool of enslavement" -
Michael Tellinger

"The present belongs to the future and future generations, and all old laws, religious and other, should be abrogated immediately. Free us!" - Vinay Gupta on Twitter

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"You find the strangest ways to be positive!" - Diane Duane, Wizards Abroad

Monday, October 17, 2011

Come Twilight by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro: my kind of vampire story (book review)

There are an awful lot of vampires out there these days. I'm not referring to corporations here, but literature. I wouldn't define myself as a fan of the genre, exactly, but in the hands of an outstanding writer the vampire offers fabulous possibilities for viewing the human world from a different perspective. And as a form of erotica, a well written and imaginative vampire story offers a relatively interesting and attractive alternative to the usual heterosexual romance. Yes, I have enjoyed vampires from time to time. There is a reason why they are so popular, especially with women.

I wanted to say something about this because frankly I'm sick of most of the vampires I've discovered infecting popular culture lately. I couldn't get through the first book in the current blockbuster "Twilight" series, finding it intolerably vapid, but here's another "Twilight" with real fangs in it. I guess the thing is, there has to be something more than just the idea of vampires, and teenage girls, to make a book worth reading. This one, for example, is terrific historical fiction, even apart from the vampire content.

Come Twilight (2000) by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. 
Among the numerous and diverse vampires invented in recent years, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Prince Ragoczy stands out. From his debut in Hotel Transylvania at the court of Louis XV (1978) and through a long series of popular novels and short-story collections, this paradoxically humane vamp has survived all the terrors of history from ancient Egypt to World War II. 

In ironic contrast to man's documented inhumanity, the vampire Ragoczy is intelligent, ethical, and heroic. Several thousand years of personal growth have taught him to nurture his "victims" with a sensual sharing of their life force, rather than killing them, when he "feeds." 

But here, in a moment of poor judgment in seventh-century Catalonia, he creates a monster vampire who proceeds to terrorize the countryside for hundreds of years. Feeling responsible for this "child", an anguished Ragoczy attempts to reform her. 

Come Twilight is a marvelous work of historical fiction, describing 500 years of Catalonian social, political, linguistic, and ecological changes under the successive rule of Romans, Moors, and Christians. Especially noteworthy is the parallel Yarbro draws between the ecological disaster resulting from the Moors' deforestation of the area, and the failure of Ragoczy's morally deficient protege to survive in a way that connects with life rather than destroying it. 

Episodically exploring one geographical region over several historical periods rather than focusing on a single era, this is an interesting departure from the earlier novels. It assumes some previous knowledge of the series, but new readers interested in the history of Catalonia shouldn't be afraid to give it a try, and fans of the "Saint Germain Chronicles" should appreciate this fresh perspective on their hero's long journey.

(adapted from my SLJ review)
I also enjoy the "Sookie Stackhouse" series by Charlaine Harris, for its humor and satire (but found the TV series based on the novels merely disgusting and unwatchable).

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