Friday, April 15, 2016

DNF: Becoming Darkness


I feel ashamed that I even checked this out. I'm even more ashamed that I bought it for the library.  I hope it was one of those cases where the reviews available at the time didn't accurately reflect the actual book (ahem, see also: The Doubt Factory, When My Heart Was Wicked).

With the tagline of "vampire Nazis," I was hoping this would either be a) a gritty alternate history or b) one of those b-list romps that ends up being kind of naughtily funny.  This is neither.  It is a muddled, offensive piece of offal attempting to be the love child of Dracula and Twilight.



I read a few chapters in and then skimmed to the end, but you can find more comprehensive cranky reviews on Goodreads, if you are so inclined to pop over there.  In just those few chapters, though, the Holocaust was vaguely referenced in one line and then tossed away.  You cannot--CANNOT--do a book about WWII without addressing the millions of Jews, homosexuals, political disseidents, Roma, and other groups who were murdered by the Nazis.  What happened to them in this alternate history where Hitler released a bioweapon that turned 99% of the world's population into zombies?  Holocaust erasure is a giant (think Everest-sized) nope in my book.


The main character, Sophie Harkness (her father is Jonathan Harkness, har har har great reference there, author), is one of the relatively few humans to be naturally immune to Hitler's Evil Vampire Virus, which he created with the help of ... actual ... vampires.  Okay.  Sure.

Those who are Immune and free from Nazi control live in Haven, which is either an island or California but I'm honestly very unsure because the geography in this book seems to have been decided by a four-year old.  Upon further reflection, I'm pretty sure it's Hawaii, but there is zero mention of the characters' surroundings being hot or humid or beautiful or anything that I think of when I think "Hawaii."  Unless there's some other big island in the Pacific (near America) that I'm forgetting?  Becoming Darkness is set in 2014, but you'd never know based on the setting.  Part of this is because all of the movie stars have become immortal vamps, meaning that citizens of Earth are perpetually stuck in the 40s when it comes to movie plots.

Wait, this sounds like a dream.  All Cary Grant all the time?  Sign me up!  Wait, no.  NAZI VAMPIRE MOVIES.  Even worse, NAZI VAMPIRE CARY GRANT.


Civilization doesn't seem to have advanced much, either.  Haven has electric taxis called Zebras, but the Nazi Regime have nice BMWs.  How do they have electricity in Hawaii if the rest of the country has fallen to Vamps?  Do the Nazi Vampires just helpfully provide Haven with power?  Because I'm sure an empire of undead befanged ones in thrall of one of the worst humans ever would altruistically sell power to their mortal enemies.  Taking it a step further, why haven't the Vamps eradicated the Immune humans?  Even our heroine questions this, and then blithely says, "We don't know!" and leaves it at that.

Early in the book, the author references The Man in the High Castle (reviewed here).  While I didn't love that book, I thought the idea was fascinating and that some parts of it were truly frightening.  One of the main conceits of PKD's novel is the novel-within-a-novel nesting.  TMITHC is an alternate history wherein the Nazis won WWII because FDR was assassinated; within the novel, many characters read a forbidden book, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, that describes an alternate history in which the Allies won WWII.  In Becoming Darkness, Sophie's best friend is reading a book descrbing an alternate past in which Hitler and the Nazis never vamped it up and took over the world.  While I generally like nods to classic literature, this one felt a bit like a rip-off, but I can't put my finger on why.

The main plot of this revolves around Sophie's forbidden love for a Vampire.  Who, in case you forgot, is a Nazi.


But OH WAIT.  He explains to her that most Vamps "aren't really Nazis," they're just innocent victims dragged into being eternal and also servants of one of the most evil humans ever to walk this earth.  Cry me a river, Valentine.  Yes, that's his name.  Val-en-fricking-tine.  Before being torn away from Sophie forever, Val manages to get her pregnant, and she finds herself changing as this new, dangerous human-Vamp hybrid grows inside her.  Too bad Val's not there to eat the baby out of her womb before it kills her.

BUT!  An astute reviewer noticed that this is going to be a trilogy, so there's absolutely ample time for baby human-Vamp hybrid birthing.

And lo, unto the world was born to us another completely unneeded vampire baby!  Let the riverbanks overflow with the tears of those unfortunate enough to have encountered this book!  Let me forget that this ever happened.  Amen.


2 comments:

  1. This is hilarious! I'm guessing the publisher thought it might make some sales to have a story with Twilight echoes. Personally, I can't see how a vampire could father - or give birth to - children, if they're technically dead. In fact, could a male vampire even get it up with no blood circulation?

    You might like to try Kim Newman's Anno Dracula series - great fun! They start with the premise that the characters in the novel failed to stop Dracula. He goes on to marry Queen Victoria and suddenly, it's fashionable to become a vampire! Only thing is, you can't have children. Ever. There's a detailed description of a girl who has decided to turn going through what is her last period, as her body changes.

    Hmm, Cary Grant still around and making movies... Nice!

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    1. I don't think anyone has ever successfully explained the biological mechanics of vampire sexytimes. Besides the whole circulation issue, sperm need a relatively specific temperature to remain viable, and the whole undead corpse thing is a wee bit frigid, I should think.

      And the author is a guy, so he should totally know all of that.

      I would definitely love more Cary Grant movies!

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