Wednesday, 16 September 2009

‘Bite Marks: A Vampire Testament’ – Terence Taylor (St. Martin’s Press)


What is your favourite vampire story? For a long time I would have gone for ‘Dracula’ as my choice but then I read Robert McCammon’s ‘They Thirst’ and everything changed. While I wouldn’t say that ‘They Thirst’ is the best written tale, this story of vampires slowly infiltrating (and taking over) Los Angeles is relentlessly intense and has stayed under my skin ever since. Thinking about it, the whole ‘vampires in a modern day urban setting’ thing may have been what persuaded me to give Urban Fantasy a go.
Whatever it is, when I saw Terence Taylor’s story of vampires living in New York I thought of ‘They Thirst’ straight away and knew that I had to give it a go. I’m glad I did, despite a couple of things that bugged me (one of them incredibly so...) ‘Bite Marks’ is an entertaining tale that I would probably go back and re-read. I’m hoping that some of the loose ends hint at a sequel...

Eternal life leaves a vampire with a lot of time to kill; while all vampires kill to feed others look on it as a kind of hobby. One such vampire’s hobby could very well reveal the hidden existence of vampires in New York... A vampire kills a teenage runaway and then makes her feed on her own child. Before she dies though, she brings the child back to life. Now there’s an undead infant toddling around the streets of Manhattan, something all vampires want dealt with if their own lives are to remain a secret. Steve and Lori aren’t vampires; they’re just working on a book about them. When they discover a lead that introduces them to the hidden vampires on the streets... well, things are about to get interesting to say the least. The city is primed to explode and it’s only going to take a small spark to set the whole thing off...

‘Bite Marks’ is one of the most readable books I have ever come across. I started reading and the next thing I knew I was a hundred pages in. Where had the time gone? Terence Taylor achieves this through a mix of interesting concepts, scary moments and characters where you want to invest your time in finding out what happens to them next. The dynamic of Steve and Lori’s relationship is one that could easily happen to anyone and Taylor makes them both likeable enough (as people) that the resolution of their relationship becomes as important as the fact that the vampire crisis is beginning to boil over.

Thanks to Urban Fantasy, every major American city has a group of vampires sucking on an artery or two; Taylor keeps things fresh, in this respect, by setting ‘Bite Marks’ in the middle of the eighties and sending things off on a tangent as a result of the AIDS virus beginning to make itself known. Taylor’s vampires are as much at risk as anyone else, perhaps even more so, and the book surprises you with its conclusions. The plot surrounding the vampire baby is handled well, as far as I’m concerned, with it made clear just how important finding this baby is (both in terms of the vampire community as a whole and for the vampire who kicked off the whole mess). The tension is manipulated very well and Taylor also isn’t afraid to get down and dirty at the same time, showing his readers the more visceral side of vampire life. I also particularly liked the way that Taylor used the plot to introduce his readers to the vampire community and its structure. It’s all done very gradually (although there’s maybe a little too much of it) but before you know what’s going on, you have a lot more background knowledge than you thought and you’re waiting to see if the lie at the heart of vampire life will be exposed...

I did wonder at times if Taylor was trying to pack too much into too small a space with the introductory pieces sometimes swamping the story itself. This could be fine if the book is the first in a series (and there’s a flow from book to book) but this approach did leave things feeling disjointed in the meantime. I was also left thinking ‘what the...’ when it transpired that Lori had been able to research the vampire villains methods (even though vampires are meant to be a secret and she had only just found out about him) just in time to foil his attack on her...

Despite this though, ‘Bite Marks’ is an engaging and entertaining page turner that had me hooked. Definitely one for vampire fans.

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

4 comments:

Harry Markov: daydream said...

NICE! I would enjoy this read for sure and the cover art is amazing as well.

Mardel said...

This does seem a little different than what's out there now. So far my favorite take on vampires is Suzanne McLeod' books (Sweet Scent of Blood and The Cold Kiss of Death). The main character is a Sidhe, actually she's mixed, but vampires play a huge part in the novels.

Dennise said...

hello i am writing from venezuela , i just found in my basement this book moon of the spider ( diablo ) by Richard A knaak , i wonder if there other books in this saga ?? o is just this one ..?? lot of love
Dennise

ediFanoB said...

My one and only vampire book favorite is Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin.