Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bite Me: A Love Story

Bite Me: A Love Story
by Christopher Moore
Recommended Ages: 14+

The opening chapter of this book was so insanely fast-paced that I thought, "There's no way the author can keep this up; and even if he does, I'm not going to like it." Fortunately, this turned out to be because this is the third book of a trilogy, and there was a lot of background from the previous two books to catch up on. Leave it to me to start a trilogy with the third book! Now I'm going to have to go back and read Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck, both subtitled "A Love Story." One could seriously apply the title "Love Story" to this entire trilogy (as one website actually does). But that wouldn't do justice to a series of hilarious, raunchy, and sometimes touching books that give a refreshing shakedown to an all-too-earnest genre: the vampire novel.

Boldly satirizing the darkness that certain rebellious teens and aimless twenty-somethings choose to fill their inward emptiness, it risks a third of its narration on the first-person voice of the Most. Annoying. Teenager. Ever... the underage vampire-minion who calls herself Abby Normal. Abby talks in a pidgin of internet-chat abbreviations, heavily paraphrased literary allusions, pop-culture references, and hipster slang, with some made-up expressions of her own thrown in. The sum of all this is a lingo that at times is nearly incomprehensible—to the other characters as well as to us. Abby is both simple and complex—simple in a way that will make you feel a protective glow of affection for her, and complex in a way that does justice to her dread of being considered perky. She is perky, but also dark in a goth sort of way. She enthusiastically serves the hot young vampires Jody and Tommy, but she has also betrayed them (to the point of having them bronzed during their daytime slumber), and at the same time she wants to be like them: nosferatu! (Also, she loves that word.)

Unfortunately, the vampire menace has not sailed as far away from San Francisco as Abby and her boyfriend Steve "Foo Dog" Foo thought, after the events of the previous books. For one thing, it only takes one slip with a sharp object, one nick in the bronze shell that imprisons Abby's former master and mistress, to set them free. Jody is ready to bounce right back into vampire badness. But Tommy, who had wanted to go back to being a mortal, has spent his five months in bronze going slowly insane. Worse yet, the city's street people are being stalked by a growing... er... pounce of vampire cats. Whether that's the right word for it or not, these kitties grow bolder every day. Soon they are attacking people out in the open, draining their blood until they turn to dust, leaving behind only empty clothes and a pile of gray powder. Their leader is a gigantic shaved cat named Chet, who has somehow grown into something bigger, smarter, and meaner than should be possible for a domestic cat.

While Jody and Tommy, Abby and her friends, the cops, and the Animals (a gang that works the night shift stocking shelves at Safe-Way—long story) are all working separate angles to solve this problem, the Old Vampire who turned Jody has returned to town with a coven of ancient, undead badasses. They have their own ideas on how to clean up this mess. And that's the worst news of all.

An Adult Content Advisory definitely applies to this book, in which sex, drug use, profanity, and really gruesome violence are depicted. So, mature and responsible readers are wanted. On the other hand, a certain youthful outlook is also a trait of this book's satisfied reader. Approached with the right frame of mind, this book may make you laugh until your breath goes and the tears come. It also has the thrills and chills required of a good vampire story, with intense battles against deadly deadies, dark spaces full of horror and suspense, and a poignant thread of lonely sadness that may in a sense be the most grown-up thing in the book. It also offers yet another smart and intriguing approach to what makes vampires function, and malfunction. It examines the advantages and disadvantages of having your city infested with predators that can climb walls upside-down, turn into vapor, and recover from any injury if given enough blood, and whose only major weaknesses are sunlight and a certain blend of Chinese herbs. Crazy, right?

I'm definitely going to read Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck, and not just because I already have them out of the library. I would like to see the Animals, the Jody-Tommy relationship, and the buddy-cops Rivera and Cavuto given more room to develop outside the distorting lenses of Abby's off-and-on narration. It's interesting to see a story partly told via a blog while the events are in progress; but most days, I would gladly trade the unreliable testimony of a narcissistic teenager for a nice, objective, third-person account, even when I gather, from the two books by him that I have read so far, that Moore specializes in alternating between different characters' points of view. It's even fun, once in a while, to experience a few paragraphs' worth of action through the mind of a dog. And while I would prefer to have Abby narrate at me than, say, the undead girl Quinn in Kathleen Tierney's Blood Oranges, that's mainly because Abby is funnier and, deep down, nicer to be around. That doesn't stop me from sympathizing with a character who finds her so irritating that he wants to smack her. Give Moore credit, though, for nicely judging how much of Abby the average reader can take, and then switching to another point of view.

Other titles by Christopher Moore include Coyote Blue, Island of the Sequined Love Nun, A Dirty Job, Fool, and Sacre Bleu. There is also a "Pine Cove" trilogy, of which I have only read the second book (D'oh!).

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