Tuesday, October 20, 2015

“The Passion of the Blood”: A Review of The Journal of Vincent du Maurier

by K. P. Ambroziak (Published by the author, 2014). ISBN: 9781500405359

I love most things vampire. I write about them, have shelves full of movies featuring them, and even more shelves filled with books, both fiction and historical studies, of the vampire phenomenon. I even have a bunch of favorite songs about them.
Amidst all of these myriad materials, my love of vampires has a lot of restrictions and must-haves/must-not-haves—because there is a lot about vampires being written and filmed that misses their core Brutality. Their addiction to Blood is as fierce and all-pervasive as a heroin junky’s—and, when it is well done, the addiction drives them, in the end, to always show their fangs, no matter how much their charm has fooled us. The best vampires are not to be trusted, and they know it. They tell us so, over and over. They are prone to excuses and rationalizations. They are inclined toward boredom, infighting, and existential crisis.
So, when a new book about vampires arrives, I always hold my breath for the first few pages and see just what kind of blood-lusters these new ones will be.
K. P. Ambroziak’s vampires meet my criteria for what makes the best vampires. At times reminiscent of the vampires and their historical–cultural context that populate the thousands of pages of fiction by Anne Rice, at other times like Stoker’s Dracula (employing the device of the journal, and the syntax of one who has existed for hundreds of years), and still others like the Hammer vampires in their lust and prolonged brutality, The Journal of Vincent du Maurier is in many ways a classic vampire novel.
Then again, it’s not. Ambroziak employs the recently popular device of pulling in a post-apocalyptic zombie adversary, but not named as such. In this case, they are called the Bloodless, the way they are called Walkers in The Walking Dead. So yes, if you like vampires, zombies, and The Walking Dead, you are going to love this book. It uses all of these well, and is well-written to keep it all flowing at an engaging pace and in the proper tone for the genre.
But there is more. What I liked best about The Journal of Vincent du Maurier is that it is written with lots of historical context (and some terrific reveals about who is who that I wouldn’t dare reveal) and cultural detail, including bursts of dialogue in several foreign languages (always translated in ways that speak to Ambroziak’s craft as a writer—Cormac McCarthy could learn a few things from this). There is also plenty of smart science. The author has done abundant research, and it shows.
The book opens with a Translator’s Note, which situates the story in time (268 of Post Common Era), and contains the following, which the reader should keep in mind as the book ends: “With the exception of its last few missing pages, the following chronicle…” (p. 3).
The Journal of Vincent du Maurier is a perfect storm of the writer’s talent, new use and blending of old tropes, research, and the mechanism of a found journal. A rarity for self-published books, there were very few grammatical errors, which was appreciated. Overall, the paper selection, typeface, binding, and cover design are of a high quality that independent publishing needs more of in order to be judged more on the merit of the work and less on the often questionable quality of the delivery.
It is hard to tell, with the “missing pages” at the end, if this is the first in a series. I hope that it is, because Vincent du Maurier (whose real identity I think you’ll enjoy discovering) is a vampire I’d like to hear more from.


No comments: