Thursday, May 10, 2012

V Wars by Jonathan Maberry

Pub date: May 29, 2012.

Author website.

A sweeping, threaded narrative of the global phenomenon known as the Vampire Wars! Mankind is silently infected by a millennia-old bacteria unknowingly exhumed by a scientific expedition in Antarctica. Now, in some rare cases, a person’s so-called “junk DNA” becomes activated, and depending on their racial and ethnic heritage they begin to manifest one of the many diverse forms of the “others” that are the true basis for the legends of supernatural creatures. These aren’t your usual vampires and werewolves — it goes much deeper than that.  (

V WARS is actually more of an anthology centered around a single spine of a plot.  Maberry is in the middle of it all, weaving the basis of the world with JUNK, ESCALATION, SPECIES, GENOCIDE, EMBEDDED and LAST BITES.  JUNK takes up the biggest chunk of the story, centering on Michael Fayne, aka Patient Zero (not Joe Ledger).  The guy that started it all.  I only know Jonathan for his zombies but let me tell you he can do vampires too.  I just LOVED the science behind it, how it was basically a virus that activated dormant, or junk, DNA in our genetic code giving humans vampire tendencies.  Unlike zombies most of these guys blended into society so you would have no idea if the person standing next to you on the subway is leering at you because you're hot or because they're hungry.  To pun terribly, it's a more evolved pandemic than something like a zombie virus, as that's what people with the mutations come to think of themselves as.  Evolved.  They've moved on to the next phase of humanity.

Each subsequent story of Maberry's moves on to how the reaction to this virus would escalate in the world, the breakdown of the species (which I loved because all of these authors delved into some seriously off the beaten path vampires, the variety was awesome), deeming the mutants enemies of the state by the government and thus sanctioning their slaughter, the vampires teaming up to fight back and then vampires hiding in plain sight.  These stories were sprinkled along the book, mixed in with other authors and they created an excellent complement to everything else going around.  Everyone really wrote so well within Maberry's imagined world that while the voices differed the stories seemed authentic.  Seriously loved it.

Nancy Holder authored ROADKILL about bikers defending the border and then ultimately losing their grip on reality and who is really the enemy.  I liked this one for the ambiance.  The story didn't hold me so much as its setting.  I could feel the grit and the grime of the desert and it ground out the unreality of the situations into something tangible.  Probably because I've been to Arizona and could actually picture it.  Made it all the more real.

John Everson wrote LOVE LESS about a talk show host that's pretty much a closet sociopath.  I liked this character for her ingenuity but that's where it pretty much ended.  She wasn't sympathetic although she presented a really interesting variety in the vampire species going around.

Yvonne Navarro wrote EPIPHANY which was quite possibly my second favorite story in this compendium.  Also set in Arizona, it focuses on a seventeen-year-old Native American girl still living on the reservation and ostracized from her society in part because her parents were nonconformists to their world but also because she was raped.  She begins to morph into a kind of snake-like vampire that was just super crazy from the beginning.  She even adopted slightly snake-like features (if you're thinking Voldemort you've gone too far) and made a pretty good job for herself because of her, um, talents.  Between the setting and the fantastic character in Mooney, I didn't want this particular narrative to end.

Scott Nicholson wrote HEARTSICK, a short I wasn't all that impressed with.  Loved the lore of the Raven Mockers that would eat people's hearts but the characters were a bit too stereotypical heehaws for my liking.

James A. Moore added STALKING ANNA LEI which had a not-so-appealing vampire (something kind of cat-like) but a great plot.  A brother is on a mission to find his sister who he thinks was kidnapped by an ogre-looking vampire.  Except this nasty vampire is leaving a blood trail that points right back to the MC.  Definitely suspenseful and an author that's rather unforgiving with his characters.  I liked it.

Keith RA Decandido wrote THE BALLAD OF BIG CHARLIE which deviated from the truer vampire line just a bit to add in shapeshifters.  Charlie is a Bronx DA who also happens to be a werewolf.  This is the story that, for me, really zeros in on something more political in terms of equality.  Is Charlie even human anymore?  Should he be allowed out of the house?  Is he safe?  Obvious parallels to society's current issues with gay people and their rights, or minorities, or any people in adversity really.  It takes place an extended amount of time after the zero event so society has had a chance to thoroughly react to the issue and polarize itself.  I normally don't like moralizing but I was okay with it here.  It didn't seem contrived and fit really well with the story as a whole.  This one probably came in a solid number three from the top for me.

And last but not least Gregory Frost wrote VULPES about a Romanian scientist getting exposed to the virus in Antarctica but it doesn't go where you think it might go considering her home (as people's mutations depend on their heritage).  She is actually the antithesis to the vampires, a protector of mankind.  A great way to end the book, really.  Her line of mutation is the medicine for the vampire virus.  It's not pretty but with the "bad" mutations come the "good" ones that'll help protect society.

With the ridiculous mix of vampire lore going on in V WARS, there is definitely something for every vampire lover in here.  From the scientific aspect (which I found believable) to the emergence of little known vampire species (and the authors' willingness to deviate from the beaten and cliched path) and the various effects it has on the world, V WARS kept me entertained from beginning to end.  This is a serious Christmas gift for at least a couple of my die hard vampire-loving friends.  And I'm not talking about Twihards either.  They can stuff it.  These vamps would devour Edward whole, pound his granite glitter skin into eyeshadow and hand it out at strip clubs.

Ban Factor: High - Vampires, gore and sex.  This one's not for the kiddies.
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