I’m writing this review today as a former lover of all things vampiric. As a kid, I was a whore for anything that had to do with vampires. Books, movies—I drew pictures. The biggest fight that I ever had with my mother was over going to see The Lost Boys at the tender age of 12. But lately I’ve been disheartened with the whole vampire genre. And though I’m notorious for blaming Twilight, of course it didn’t start there. Twilight was just an inevitable end that was started by Anne Rice, “Forever Knight,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “Angel.” Of course pop culture has never had trouble making vampires sympathetic characters. They’re sexy and tortured, what’s not to love? But lately we’ve taken it to the next level. The kinder, gentler vamp has wormed his way into the mainstream and frankly… it pisses me off. Who the hell decided that vampires didn’t actually need to drink blood? Or that they weren’t ruthless hunters with a knack for seduction? Or that they didn’t really have fangs? Or—the worst of all insults—sparkled in the sun? We have essentially cut their balls off.
Enter Andy Deane.
Some of you may know Andy as the frontman of the Goth band, Bella Morte. That’s how I knew him until last summer. We were supposed to attend a Sci-Fi Con together and I of course read his bio on the website. Come to find out, he had started writing some horror fiction and immediately I was excited. I read his first book, The Sticks and loved it. I thought that the first chapter was truly one of the best first chapters I’d ever read. So naturally, when I heard that his next novel, All the Darkness in the World, was coming out AND it was a vampire novel—I was completely psyched! I forced myself to wait and buy a hard copy for myself directly from, for lack of a better term, the horse’s mouth. I bought my copy from Andy and even scored an autograph. My inner Goth chick was all gooey inside. Then my outer critic tapped me on the shoulder and said, “What if it sucks? After all, it’s a vampire novel.” And after reading the book, I can tell my outer critic to shut the fuck up. I won’t keep you in suspense—I loved it. All the Darkness in the World has renewed my faith in the vampire genre. Finally, a slew of badass vamps to wreak havoc for a good 200 pages. No sparkling. No brooding. No remorse of any kind. And it’s fabulous!
All the Darkness in the World is told from the first person point of view of our hero, Jace. By the way, a horror novel told in first person POV is unusual and hard as hell to write. The story begins when Jace is a frustrated teenager just praying for the day he can get out of his abusive parents’ house. On a fateful night Jace witnesses two vampires attacking a lone female and he steps in to assist. Confirming his role as the heroic shit-kicker, Jace lays waste to one of the creatures and ignites the rage of head-vampire, Vaughn. Vaughn swears revenge on the skinny kid and thus the story gets rolling.
Let me begin by saying that Deane is a master of characterization. It’s really important in any sort of horror story to make the reader feel a connection to the hero. Otherwise, you really won’t give a shit if the zombies are eating his or her brains. From the first chapter, I had a really good idea of who Jace was and where he was coming from. A lot of time was spent examining Jace’s relationship with his parents and at first I found it a little tiresome. Then I realized—Jace’s folks are the real monsters of the story. And if he can deal with them, a few vampires shouldn’t be much of a problem. All that backstory makes it believable that when the shit hits the fan, Jace will be able to deliver and survive. My only criticism of Deane’s storytelling would be that none of his other characters are as developed as Jace. I found myself wanting to know more about Vaughn. Why was he so bent on avenging the mindless drone that Jace took care of? He goes to great lengths to destroy the world of a punk kid. Why? I wanted a bit more motivation on that front.
I’ve been an avid reader since age five and one thing I’ve learned in the last thirty years is that some books are for boys and some are for girls. Don’t laugh—it’s true. Women tend to like books with deep characters and intricate plots that deal mostly with those characters. Boys say to Hell with that emotional shit—get to the hack and slash. For example, Lord of the Rings is a boy book. Wuthering Heights is a girl book. I won’t elaborate—go read them yourself. All the Darkness in the World is definitely a boy book. There’s a lot of action and violence. The last fourth of the book is so bloody that for a moment I thought I might need a sterile towel to mop it up. Luckily, I love the violence. After all, I’ve always been a weird girl. My personal favorite scene is near the end of the book when one of the drone vampires finds himself separated from the rest of the gang and is unluckily on the receiving end of Jace’s rage. The way in which our hero disposes of the bloodsucker is both creative and sadistic. So much so that I have made a point never to get on Deane’s bad side. That being said, I was kind of missing a final mano a mano deathmatch at the end between Jace and Vaughn. It’s there, but it wasn’t the epic fight to the death I was hoping for.
It goes without saying that this horror aficionado loved All the Darkness in the World. I think Voltaire (Goth musician and artist, not the witty writer/ historian/philosopher from the 1700s) summed it up best in his forward to the book when he wrote that reading Andy’s books are like listening to Andy tell a story. It’s true. His voice shines through in the narration and it’s endearing. It makes you interested in what he has to say and therefore, you keep reading. And that, of course, is the mark of a true horror writer. To completely scare the shit out of you so that you want to put the book in the freezer, but at the same time make you so curious as to what happens next that you keep reading. Andy is a true horror writer. I can only hope that my own horror fiction can someday float around in the same echelon.
I don’t really have much of a rating system, so for those of you that need stars…