Saturday, 25 August 2012

Children of the Night

Dan Simmons Children of the Night (1992)
Thus endeth the reading project which began with my decision to read some vampire stuff in order to see what the fuck was up with that shit, from which I drew the unexpected and possibly blasphemous conclusion that Twilight is, pound for pound, superior to the somewhat overrated Dracula. I picked up Children of the Night because I wanted to see what contemporary authors writing for a readership other than teenage girls were doing with the undead fanged rascals, and because I heard somewhere that Dan Simmons was a decent enough spinner of yarns.

Children of the Night is set in roughly contemporary Romania following the fall of the Ceauşescu regime, presenting a sober, scientific take on vampire biology that seems in places reminiscent of Michael Crichton and the like. Furthermore, this Dracula is the man himself, Vlad Tepeş of Wallachia, still hanging on after five centuries. The historical detail is thoroughly researched, evocatively rendered, and I could have stood to read a great deal more of it. Unfortunately, after this extremely promising start, it turns into a generic thriller of the kind traditionally read on beaches: brilliant doctor woman refuses to play by the rules but gets results, high speed chase across Romania, some moderate shagging, exploding helicopters, ancient ceremony at scary castle interspersed with admittedly convincing conversation about vampire DNA...

Of course, it's nevertheless fast-paced, readable, even unputdownable as I expect the Daily Mail probably enthused at the time, but interspersed as it is with tantalisingly superior passages from the immeasurably more interesting perspective of Vlad himself, it adds up to a McDonalds happy meal washed down with a decent Cabernet Sauvignon; which is nice, but I'm afraid I expected more. Weird though I'm sure it will sound, Children of the Night turns out to be just another vampire novel that isn't as good as Twilight.

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