A while back, I put a post on the pluses and minuses of writing in past tense vs writing in present tense. There are people who will immediately toss a book across the room if they find it’s written in present tense, which is unfortunate because they’ll miss out on some wonderful stories like S.L. Eaves’s Dead and Damaged.
Now, it’s probably fair to say the vampire and werewolf genre has been done a lot. For those of thinking “Ah ha! Another Twilight!“, I’d like to remind you that Laurell Hamilton was doing the vampire and werewolf thing years before Stephanie Meyer unleashed Captain Sparkly on the world. And Hamilton, arguably, did it a lot better than Meyer.
In Hamilton’s world, a necromancer is a big deal, but not mind-blowing. Because in her world, things like werewolves and vampires and necromancers are regular things. That kind of world-building is neat, but what about vampires and werewolves in our world? A lot of vampire stories have dealt with the idea that vamps are part of our world, sucking blood and generally making a nuisance of themselves, but they lack a couple things that brings the reality of magical creatures to life:
- There are usually only a few of the critters
- No one has taken the time to figure out how to weaponize them
The second point is what sets Eaves’s story apart from most of the vampire fiction out there. In her world, vamps are quite real, but not quite common knowledge. Those in the know see them as something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, you’ve got the various government and intelligence agencies who are aware of vamps and aren’t quite sure how to deal with them. On the other, you’ve got people who spend their lives making weapons looking for ways to weaponize the vamps.
That’s really cool, and that’s what makes Dead and Damaged such a fascinating read. It feels real because she paints her characters as realistic beings. No one falls neatly into the good guy (or girl) or bad guy (or girl) camps. Even the antagonist of the book, a woman relatively devoid of morals, is relatable to some extent, though her actions are deplorable. Lori, the heroine of the story, is a seeker and her actions reveal a certain moral ambiguity that’s easy to understand and relate to. As always, it’s the actions of the character that allows us to say she’s pretty much in the good camp or the bad camp. Lori may not be the best person in the world – she does drink the blood of the living, after all – but she’s not bad in the same sense that Brixton or Marcus are bad. Frankly, I love that kind of thing; it makes the characters seem real and alive.
If you’re looking for a non-traditional vampire story that doesn’t bother to whitewash its protagonist as anything other than someone who wants to live and understand her place in the world, check out Dead and Damaged. It’s got action, intrigue, secrets, and all the great things that make for a good story. To be brutally honest, I loved it because it’s exactly the kind of story I’d write. Lori has her snarky moments and her serious moments. There are scary things, but it’s not a horror novel. There are governments and contractors doing sketchy things, but it’s not a traditional thriller. It’s vampires in a very realistic world, magical realism and gun fights and high-tech all rolled into a delicious sushi burrito.
Now, this is book 2 of The Endangered series, but it reads well enough on its own to qualify as a stand-alone engagement. At some point I need to go back and read book 1 to pick up more about the story before the story.
“Book Two of The Endangered Series picks up with Lori attempting to track down the source of stealth technology rogue vampires are using to hunt humans. Her pursuit leads her into the arms of a government agency with similar objectives. A temporary alliance is formed in an effort to stop the corporation responsible for putting the technology in malignant hands. Their mission goes awry, however, and leaves Lori with more enemies than friends. Her situation worsens when Marcus learns that the corporation has also been working with vampires to develop daylight suits and synthetic blood. He convinces his clan that this organization and its infinite resources will be a valuable asset in the evolution of their kind. They begin questioning Lori’s motives and Marcus takes the opportunity to capitalize on their distrust. Consequently, Lori soon finds herself on the run from her former clan and turns to Vega for help exposing the truth behind Marcus and his new deceitful allies.”