Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite
At a club in Missing Mile, just outside New Orleans, the children of the night gather. They dress in black and they're looking for acceptance. There's Ghost, who sees what others do not; Ann, looking for love; and Jason, whose real name is Nothing, seeking the deathless truth about his father - and himself. But into Missing Mile tonight come three beautiful, hip vagabonds: Molochai, Twig and seductive, green-eyed Zillah. They are on their own lost journey, slaking their ancient thirst for blood, aching for supple young flesh.
I do love a good supernatural vampire story. Having serious reservations about the sexy, glittering vampire phase which has swept through modern culture in recent years, it's a breath of fresh air to read about the darker side of the race. Brite certainly doesn't disappoint in her shock levels, maintaining vampire traits of old, but mixing these with a new habits.
The plot is essentially the story of Nothing, who runs away from home as he feels he doesn't below. He gets in tow with a bunch of vampires, and the festivities begin. The killings are disgusting, the sex scenes are disgusting, the incest in particular is absolutely disgusting. The story seemed unstable to me, with no real sense of direction. Maybe this was a nod towards the nomadic lifestyle of the vampires, however I didn't enjoy the lack of orientation here.
Brite does a lot with setting and atmosphere, and it's often brilliantly portrayed. There were some creepier parts of the novel where I was genuinely terrified, and that doesn't happen often to me. I could see events unfolding behind my eyelids, and they truly were frightening in places. Brite was visual and illuminating, more so towards the end of the novel. Her depiction of gothic New Orleans in the 90s was wonderful; so heavy and alive with people, supernatural or otherwise. Despite the glow, I never once felt I wanted to be a part of this particular Mardi Gras.
I liked the attempt the novel made to add depth to characters, and we were given some insight into the past lives of most of the characters. This, however, wasn't quite enough for me, and I wanted to know more in particular about the vampires themselves. They were born in the 20s; surely stuff has happened in all those years to shape how disgusting and immature they were. One of them, a far older and composed member of the race, was completely different, and more capable of remorse than the others. The only implied reason for this was his age, and a suggestion that he was getting a bit fed up. I wanted some further explanation to this difference in character, but none was given.
This novel came highly recommended by many of my reader friends. Trusting their judgement, I launched myself into it, but just didn't feel the same passion for the story, the characters, and the messages. There were parts of the story I really liked, some characters I could completely get on board with, but overall I couldn't understand my friends raving about it. I soon realised, however, I was reading the novel too late; it's something you can identify with better in your teenage years, whilst feeling out of place and alone. Something alternative and out there; entirely sex, blood, and rock and roll.