When you talk about a Christopher Moore book, you’re never talking about anything run-of-the-mill. Whether it’s your non-run-of-the-mill Christmas-fantasy-with-angels (The Stupidest Angel) or your non-run-of-the-mill Godzilla-riff (The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove), Moore is always bitingly funny, deftly satirical, and rarely sentimental— in fact, he reads much like a young American Pratchett (minus the Discworld universe equivalent and the footnotes).
You Suck! is not your run-of-the-mill vampire romance.
The appropriate age for a vampire is four hundred years old—he should be a world-weary and sophisticated creature, his human anxieties long since overcome or evolved into macabre perversions. The problem with a nineteen-year-old vampire is that he drags all of his adolescent insecurities into the dark with him.
Not only is You Suck! a reverse of the traditional vampire romance—evil lady of the night turns the good but adolescently clueless young adult1 hero Tommy of the previous book—but it also begins where most vampire stories have ended: moments after she’s escaped and just turned Tommy.
While there do exist paranormal romances where the lady, so to speak, is the vampire, rarely do they feature someone as unapologetically vampiric as Jody as a protagonist, rather than as an antagonist viewpoint. It goes against the grain of the whole mental-conflict-and-angst-at-becoming-a-predator-of-the-night thing.
So you don’t get a serious and angst-ridden treatment, but a hilarious and, from time to time, oddly touching, look at the state of vampire pop-art from an atypical standpoint. One thing about Moore’s work is his seizing unusual minor characters and turning them into full-fledged ones. For instance, there’s a prostitute who’s dyed herself blue out of desperation to provide an expensive novelty experience2. In the hands of many authors, she would be a walk-on, walk-off joke—but instead, Moore gives her character wings.
There is, naturally, a Buffy parody embedded as well, with overly rebellious and clueless teenage girl Abby Normal running after vampire Tommy with romance de gothique in her heart. There’s even a sort of punk version of Xander with a beloved pet rat, and a university researcher equivalent of Giles (except with better hardware).
Among the questions about the lifestyle of vampires that Moore contemplates are the following: Can vampires eat normal food? If they can’t how does that affect their metabolic processes?3
If all former signs of mortality are erased, what happens to the circumcised? Vampires are supernaturally strong—how does this impact their sex life?
On coffee: “It’s like the blood hunger, only, you know, more civilized.”
And, what struck me in particular: why would a woman want to stay a vampire? As Gavin De Becker commented in The Gift of Fear: “Men are afraid other men will laugh at them. Women are afraid that other men will kill them.”
With an insight that few vampire books—or heck, non-vampire books—would ever share, because it’s not politically correct, Jody’s thoughts at one point run thus:
What she could never teach Tommy, what she could never really share with him, was what it felt like to move from being a victim—afraid of attack, the shadow around the corner, the footsteps behind—to being the hunter. It wasn’t the stalking or the rush of taking down prey…. It was walking down a street, late at night, knowing that you were the most powerful creature there, that there was absolutely nothing, no one, that could fuck with you.
Most fantasies would find Jody’s reasons insipid—indeed, worst of all, unromantic—but so far I’ve found it the most compelling reason for being a vampire.
Which makes the penultimate conflict—should she and Tommy take a chance out of the vampiric lifestyle?—that much more believable: she won’t do it, even if the man she loves does. And this is so even when she’s conflicted about possibly becoming evil—after all, as a predator, you’re not exactly in sync with what is technically prey around you. It’s an internal conflict that almost every vampire romance faces, and in that sense, You Suck! is no different.
Yet, by taking such a non-traditional approach, and an unsentimental (mostly, but not completely; that’s an important part of the Moore recipe) one at that, Christopher Moore is stuck. The story obviously can’t take the normal rails. His final answer is shocking, far more Shakespeare than True Blood; and yet this may actually be the only way the story could go without turning into the very thing it parodies.
All this, plus a gigantic cat in a sweater. What more could you want?
And now for the Kindle bit.
This is a HarperCollins eBook, and as such displays that publishing House’s usual sensibility. There’s no overriding of font size, indentation, line spacing, paragraph spacing, or text justification, which allows the Kindle to settle to its readable defaults.
The table of contents is clear, using spacing wisely between chapter number and title, and between chapter number/title pairs. Notice also the lack of paragraph indentation and justification in the listing here, ideal because ToC entries aren’t sentences.
Links are also provided at the end of the ToC to parts of the book often ignored by other publishing houses. Little things like: About the Author, Copyright/Library information, Other Books By the Author. I mean, why ever provide easy access to the author’s bibliography published by the house? Crazy.
HarperCollins: as always, light years ahead of the rest.
1 Despite this, it is not a Young Adult novel, though it is something that “young adults” can read. And I say this as someone who respects dark Young Adult.
2 Sadly, it works—and in this case, on the rag-tag Safeway crew who saved the town previously, and also managed to snag $200,000 from selling off the defeated vampire master’s collection of art.
3 e.g. Do they poop?
Of course the vampire master comes back. In a hillarible sort of way.
Coined from Cleolinda of humorous Twilight recap fame.