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 V.23 No.23 | June 5 - 11, 2014 

Book Review

Jumpin' Shitcakes!, Right?

Pete, Drinker of Blood

Scott S. Phillips
Penultimate Ditch Productions
paperback
science fiction

This is, as the title suggests, a book about a vampire. Pete isn't what we've come to expect from vampires. He is not sleek or sexy or seductive. He isn't even cool; he's just a regular guy who's been getting byfor way too longworking nights and, well, drinking blood. If California, where Pete is set, hadn't outlawed them ages ago, I would say that Pete is a schlub. A mensch. Maybe even a schmoe. Pete is not so different from you or me. Except for that undead blood drinking business, he really is quite likable.

Just after getting to know Pete a little bit, the reader also learns that Pete's problems aren't so very different from the traditional vampire tropes. His elder is back in town with a problem that can only be solved by deathor eating his own spawn. We can guess which one the elder prefers, and which one the spawn prefer ...

I would like to emphasize … that this is not the sexy, scintillating, hormone-fizzing vampire tale we've all been enduring for a while now. This is the specific antidote to that. These vampires are crude, crass, ridiculous, and for the most part, neither heroes nor anti-heroes. They are just regular former people, trying to get by in this non-life.

Pete's attention to his impending excruciating horrible death is severely attenuated when a girl returns his affections. But, in the tradition of star-crossed lovers, she's a not-dead, healthy living girl. A girl who is not a loon. (The sun is a star too, you know.)

Pete blends supernatural action, sappy romance and a witty send-up of The Noble Vampire trope that’s been so popular for the last three decades. (Thanks for that, Anne Rice!)

Author Scott S. Phillips is an old hand at genre mixing, injecting wit into weirdness, and his command of language is impressive. I even found a new favorite exclamation ("Jumpin' shitcakes!"), and any author who brings me new entertainment in the form of situationally appropriate profanity is on my A-list. In fact, all through this book are phrases and one-liners that trigger the whole gamut of amusement, from smirking to hearty laughter.

I would like to emphasize by repetition that this is not the sexy, scintillating, hormone-fizzing vampire tale we've all been enduring for a while now. This is the specific antidote to that. These vampires are crude, crass, ridiculous, and for the most part, neither heroes nor anti-heroes. They are just regular former people, trying to get by in this non-life. The plot is borderline predictable, but that's fine, because this book isn't actually plot-oriented. Pete is all about the send-up, and it does that well, without dipping into in-joke territory or going the direction of obviousness like The Harvard Lampoon's 1969 classic, Bored of the Rings. The action can get a little gruesome at times, so if you're delicate, this might not be for you. Those of us with a higher tolerance for visceral moments are rewarded with a fun mix of dire peril and comedic relief.

Pete, the vampire next door, is the relatable Everyman of blood-sucking undead. He's got real problems in his unlife and is easy to like, precisely because he sucks in ways that you and I and all the rest of the “regular people” suck. (Metaphorically, mind you.) That makes him easy to root for, and that's something I have distinctly not felt with the various popular supernatural franchises. If you are sick of the shimmering ectomorphic hyper-dramatic majority of blood sustained runway models, check out Pete, Drinker of Blood.

 

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