Heather Brewer’s First Kill adds to the pool of hormonal vampirism
Review by John Bear
The Slayer Chronicles: First Kill
This whole vampires-with-problems craze has gotten out of hand. The Twilight series is like the British Invasion of pretty-boy bloodsuckers and sexy werewolves. Think of the merchandise alone: key chains, socks, cardboard cutouts. Bookstores should sell books, not Team Edward T-shirts. It's as omnipresent and irritating as Harry Potter was 10 years ago.
A quick jaunt to the nearest chain store reveals a vast universe of vampire fiction. Alternative supernatural malevolence is available for people who find vampires too gauche: werewolves, zombies and various forms of magical evil not easily discerned by dust jackets also populate the shelves. It’s as if all other genres have been marginalized by the sheer volume of fang-related fiction. So many covers emblazoned with fuzzy portraits of pouty-faced teens with protruding canines, so little time.
For casual readers who sharpen their bedposts any time they see a pale man lurking outside their bedroom window, there is The Slayer Chronicles: First Kill by Heather Brewer.
I only picked it up is because I thought it was a biography of the creepy heavy metal band. But I know plenty of full-grown adults who read this tripe—I'm sorry, “young adult literature,” as it is known in common parlance. Young adult literature. That's like the 6-foot bong with the sticker that reads “For Tobacco Use Only.” We all know damn well there are plenty of full-grown adults out there with Taylor Lautner posters on their walls.
In fact, “Young adult” or “teen” lit is like a training camp for adolescents to segue into the harder R stuff lurking on cable. “True Blood” is one pelvic thrust away from being sold only in stores with no windows and lots of cars parked backward in the lot out front. It's all masturbatory material for the sexually repressed: fauxnography.
The book concerns the young vampire dispatcher Joss McMillan. It’s actually a spin-off of another series of books by Brewer called The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, also about a teen vampire with problems (available as a box set, just in time for Christmas).
Slayer opens innocuously enough with Joss eating French toast his mom made. Brewer writes, “As he retrieved his lunch sack from ... the counter, his mom caught him in a hug, her worried mom eyes meeting his gaze. She smelled like tangerines. And French toast.” French toast is a big theme. I'm guessing it’s a metaphor for the love he will soon lose as he embarks on a lonely career smiting the undead.
But French toast may be ruined forever as Joss' beloved little sister, Cecile, is eaten by a vampire in a most grizzly manner shortly thereafter.
The incident sets in motion Joss' career as a fearless vampire killer. There's the grueling training, the cruel master, getting a little better, a setback, running into a vampire, etc.
The daughter of an older slayer befriends Joss and serves as the stock girl-character. Her name is Kat and she has blue hair. She doesn't seem to notice she’s hanging out with a bunch of vampire slayers, many of whom are suffering gruesome deaths at the hands of someone shadowy. Could be a vampire. But maybe it's not. (Cue sinister string music.)
Slayer is the first in an as-yet-unpublished series, so it's akin to the long, boring first Lord of the Rings movie where not much happens, just a lot of walking. In the eventual four-part film series, the training will be taken care of via montage.
The narrative, while dialed down for “younger readers,” touches on some gory subjects, mainly violent fang death. Joss' nightmares involving his slathering, bloody-fanged sister trying to bite him are indeed unsettling. Brewer writes, “Cecile crawled after him in a twitching hurry, her mouth oozing all sorts of insects, her eyes devoid of all life. She clutched his ankle, crying, ‘Oh, yes I am. And you put me there, Jossie. You did this to me.’ ” It's like a hallucination in a Hunter S. Thompson story.
While creepy, child murder in a book presumably geared toward children sheds light on the fact that vampires eat children; caring about whether they succeed in their romantic conquests shows incredibly poor taste and an overall lack of moral fiber. I'm talking to you, Twilight fans.
On the other hand, it's kind of hard to fault people for reading books, even if the type is huge—about 14 point. The words are so big they just kind of roll into your head when you look at the page. You probably won't suffer any permanent brain damage.
A word to other writers: The money is in vampire fiction. Even if it is completely awful.
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