In Emerald City
No one can hear you scream! "Oz"
meets "30 Days of Night."
Every time I read one of Wellington's vampire novels, my opinion of him ratchets up a few notches. I started out just thinking these were fun, throw-away pulp reads; then by the time Vampire Zero came out, I realized I was snatching these up & reading them as soon as I could get my hands on them. They are pulp, but in the best possible way. These are well crafted page turner that compel you to stay up finishing them, sneak in a few pages during your coffee break-- these are really great books. This one is no different-- I quite liked it! Wellington is on team "Sharkpire"-- you probably know what I mean. Contrast the monstrous, alien, diabolical sharkpire with the seductive, creature of the night "Sparklevamp." Now-- I'm not hating on sparklevamps-- & that includes Stephanie Meyers. I am willing to say there are all kinds of problems with the Twilight books, but using them as a sexual metaphor ain't one of them. I digress-- the vampires in Wellington's novels aren't even a little bit redeemable. No sir; they are straight up & up evil, they are the undead-- you can tell they are nearby due to the unnatural raising of the hair on your arms, the smell of a sick hamster, the way the whole world goes dead silent. They are sleek predators-- in that they are literally sleek, hairless so that, like a vulture's head, gore doesn't stick to them.
Wellington is high-concept, but restrained-- which is a hard row to hoe, but he pulls it off with panache. The first book, 13 Bullets, hits you with the premise when it introduces the young State Trooper to the grizzled US Marshal: "but, vampires went extinct in the 80s!" The next one stars the two of them again-- 99 Coffins is a story hung on the hook "oh crap, are there almost a hundred vampire coffins buried in this mass grave in Gettysburg that these archeologists just found? Crap!" The third book, Vampire Zero, focuses on Laura Caxton, the State Trooper now grown into her own in a big way, & has one of the best settings to its climax-- Centralia, PA. A coal mine fire, forever burning.
The core premise to this one is right up there with successful pitches: Laura Caxton is a prisoner in a high security prison-- & now the vampire's are in charge. The story pitches Laura against human foes & undead enemies in quick succession, & pulls it off. It alternates between Laura & her girlfriend Clara, & the suspense is tight. & I'm wowed by how much I'm willing to trust Wellington. You might take this with a grain of salt, coming from a straight white male, but: for a straight male, David Wellington can sure write lesbian females with respect & believability. Laura Caxton is a heck of a "bruiser," a dedicated killing machine, but handled without making her Arnold Schwarzenegger "with tits" (as I've heard some styles described). Clara isn't a fighter, but is darn useful. & you know what? What really impresses me is that Wellington can put them in a sucky situation-- a situation where they are threatened to be raped, where they are called slurs, where bad news is always just around the corner-- & still not make me cringe. It doesn't creep into authorial voice. It is a darn fine trait, not being a misogynist bigot. Good for him.