Vamped: A Novel, by Daniel Sosnowski

July 16, 2008

The main character of Vamped is Marty Kowalski, a man who became a vampire back in World War II. He spent years living a fairly typical vampire existence, and then he had an idea. Marty decided to make more vampires – a lot more vampires. If the world was full of vampires, then they could be in the open. No one would grow old, and no one would get sick, and most people could, at least in theory, live forever.

The story starts a few years after Marty got his wish. Vampires survive on fake blood. Humans are a thing of the past, unless the rumors about exclusive, carefully-managed hunting preserves are true. Vampires are just average people, with jobs and mortgages and heavy-duty blackout curtains. Marty’s gotten bored with the world he helped create, and he thinks about staying out past sunrise.

Then he finds Isuzu, a young human girl whose mother was killed. At first he tells himself that he’s taking her home to eat later, because her blood will taste better when she’s not terrified. But before he knows it he’s trying to keep her hidden, find regular food, and buy highly-collectible supplies for humans on eBay.

The best aspect of the book is the high level of detail about the world. Vampires have to do all the work that it takes to keep things running smoothly, and they can only do it at night. Travel is less frequent because time zones make it difficult and dangerous. Their favorite vacation spots are places in the far north that go weeks without seeing the sun certain times of year. Things associated with human needs are popular as kitsch. Human children are of particular interest, the highest-rated thing on tv is a reality show that is supposedly about the everyday activities of one of the last known human children. Vampires who were turned as young children are pitied and scorned, and often have mental issues.

This is a fun, quirky book. I love the idea of a family story where the father and daughter are actually different species instead of just seeming that way. Marty worries as much as any parent, but with good reason. Something that would be a small issue for us could be a disaster for Isuzu, between the need for secrecy and the lack of typical services for humans. And Isuzu’s teenage rebellion has potential consequences that are a little more dangerous than those of the average teen.

All of the vampire stuff shines, but the character interactions that don’t relate to that aren’t nearly as interesting. So for me, the first half of the book where both the reader and Isuzu get used to Marty’s world are fantastic, but the relationship drama at the end is a bit of a let-down. And unfortunately we only get to know Isuzu as that little girl who comes out of her shell after coming to trust the vampire. Since everything is from Marty’s point of view, we lose much of our understanding of her as a character as soon as she’s old enough to start hiding things from her father. It makes sense, but it makes the book a bit less satisfying. Finally, there are a few pretty dark scenes towards the end that don’t quite fit in.

Despite those issues, the characters and setting make Vamped worthwhile. I enjoyed reading it, and would recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different.

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