Enter, Night!

Since my last couple of review posts have been less than glowing, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about a book I LOVE:

Michael Rowe’s Enter, Night.

I’d intended to review that book as soon as I finished it (last month), but I finished it on a plane headed to my stepfather’s funeral, so I wasn’t exactly in a frame of mind to discuss literature.1  I realize that I’ve been remiss in not writing all the glowing things I have to say about Rowe’s book. (NOTE: I am going to do my best not to rail against the failings of other vampire novels here, but I make no promises.)

I love Enter, Night for all the great things that book is, but I’ll get out of the way all the things that it is not. Enter, Night is not a book about self-loathing, weepy, romantic, hero vampires. No. It’s about regular people facing down a force of evil that treats them as cattle and converts. I don’t read widely in the vampire “genre” because of the damage that Anne Rice has done.2  I’m not saying that the tragic monster tale is always bad. It’s just almost always bad. But this novel helped restore my confidence that a vampire novel can be a character-driven tale about relatable people facing adversity caused by something terrible and beyond their understanding or control.

Early on in the book I was concerned that I might have to put it down. One of my greatest personal distastes in any genre–and a deal killer for any book–are precocious kids who speak and problem solve like middle-aged adults. Rowe has two young teenagers feature prominently in the story, but they are well-realized kids! Their dialogue isn’t unnaturally adult and they have kid interests and a kid’s perception of their problems in relation to the rest of the world. Perfect!

Best of all, there are vampires in the book that are monstrous and scary. They’re scary mainly because their appearance is rare, they are unrepentantly violent, and the focus of our sympathies are for their victims, not them. I haven’t felt honest physical concern for characters in danger this powerfully since I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for the first time. I loved Rowe’s characters that much.

Enter, Night has undeniable similarities to Stephen King’s Salem Lot inasmuch as small towns are both characters in the novel. Unlike Jerusalem’s Lot, however, Parr’s Landing is itself vampiric and a stand in for the literal monsters that reside in its outskirts. This may be my favorite thing about the novel. Anyone who has ever lived in a provincial, closed-minded, small town with a seemingly unbreakable gravitational pull will know what I’m saying. Towns like Parr’s Landing can suck the life right out of you and turn you into a shell of what you really are or could have been. His main characters know this and when they’re forced to return after having escaped years earlier, they can see the town for exactly what it is. Parr’s Landing is the kind of place that is a vampire. You either become like it or you can’t survive. Brilliant!

Be warned, however, this is not an action-packed Hollywood style romp. This book is a slow-burn, creepy, atmospheric horror novel. In other words, it immediately launched into my top six favorite vampire novels of all time. They are in this order:

    1. The Hunger
    2. Let the Right One In
    3. Enter, Night
    4. The Historian
    5. Salem’s Lot
    6. Dracula3

This one gets all the damned stars on an arbitrary six star rating system. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★★

Thank you, Michael Rowe!

______________

1 Thank you, Mr. Rowe, incidentally, for getting me through that flight. It was an inordinately stressful experience, and Parr’s Landing was definitely a preferable place for me to be instead of on a Delta flight to friggin’ Salt Lake City.

2 Before you get upset with me, I loved Interview and Lestat–I thought they were groundbreaking and interesting. But I think she’s responsible for the Stephanie Millers of the world by creating a trope wherein traditional monsters are portrayed as sympathetic creatures whose only downside is conscience. Remaining with vampires as an example, it seems that recent literary history (with a few notable exceptions) the only downsides to vampirism are that they can’t go out in daylight (excepting the sparkly kind), and that they have a variably insatiable thirst for human blood. Otherwise, they’re eternally young, sexy, and super-powered in varying degree. Why the fuck wouldn’t you want to be a vampire? I’ll tell you why you shouldn’t want to be a vampire–because they’re ugly, tortured, semi-intelligent predators who are justifiably despised, hunted, and subject to extermination without reservation. That’s why! Imagine sharks that could walk on land and were pretty good at hiding their… er, sharkiness. I’ll tell you this, If I were a shark I would fucking eat you and feel pretty good about it, I bet. /rant

3 Interview With the Vampire gets an honorable mention. I also love I am Legend (it’s about fucking VAMPIRES people, not zombies!), but it’s not one I go back to again and again.

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~ by poǝןɔɐɯ uǝʞɔɐɹq on 13/01/2012.

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