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Lost Souls - Poppy Z. Brite

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    6 Reviews
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      25.08.2009 11:17
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      A vampire story with lots of sex

      Above a dingy bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans, a vampire child is born, killing his mother as he fights his way out of her womb. Fifteen years later, that same child, called Nothing, is being brought up by non-vampire parents, but knows that something is missing from his life. He leaves home, aiming to find his favourite group, Lost Souls, to see if they can help him find his way. He is picked up by a strange group of people, the beautiful Zillah, Molochai and Twig, who appear to live life by partying hard. Before long, it becomes clear that Zillah and Nothing have a strong bond. But is it a healthy one? And can his friends Ghost and Christian help him to see the truth before it is too late?

      I love horror, but haven't really read all that much vampire literature, except for the occasional Anne Rice. However, a friend recommended this book, and not being one to turn down a challenge, I went ahead and read it. And I have to admit that, with the exception of one aspect of the book, it is a very intriguing story, full of vampirism, mind-reading and other types of magic. Quite who it is aimed at, I am not sure. I tend to think of vampire novels as being aimed at teenagers, but in this case, because of the frequent descriptions of sex, I think it may be more appropriate for at over 18s. But more on that later.

      I loved all the characters. Although the whole story revolves around Nothing, he is one of the less colourful characters, being young, relatively innocent and unsure of his role in the world. Nevertheless, I had a certain amount of respect for his wanting to flee a life that made him so unhappy, and he definitely inspired a lot of sympathy in me. Zillah, Molochai and Twig are the complete opposite of Nothing. They are party animals, with little sympathy for anyone or anything outside their world. They strip people of their blood, usually choosing teenage boys or girls, and are just concerned with their next fix. Nevertheless, they are very striking as characters - Zillah's beguiling green eyes and psychopathic tendencies may not be likeable, but they are certainly intriguing.

      I also loved Ghost and Christian. Ghost is a strange character. The lead singer of Lost Souls, and best friend to the other member of the band, Steve, he is able to read minds and has strange visions. Constantly terrified that something awful will happen to Steve, he spends nearly all his time trying to keep him safe, but also has time to show concern for Nothing and Steve's ex-girlfriend. Christian is another vampire, but unlike Zillah et al, he is much more mature in his behaviour, only killing when he absolutely has to. Characterisation is most certainly Poppy Z Brite's strong point - each and every one of them is beautifully described and, despite the number of characters, by the end of the book, I really felt as though I knew all of them.

      The story is a good one. It is told from the point of view of a number of characters, primarily Christian, Nothing and Steve and Ghost, and at the beginning, it is hard to understand quite what they all have in common. However, the story slowly reveals how they all fit together and, by a third of the way through the book, I was hooked. And I loved the idea of vampires living unnoticed amongst ordinary people. Zillah et al and Christian may have dressed strangely, but they were still able to lead the lives of their choosing without any outside interference. This could have come across as childish, but the way Brite tells the story, it is actually not and I was left feeling as if I'd read a worthwhile piece of literature.

      I adored the way that the author describes the French Quarter of New Orleans. It is a place I've always wanted to visit, and do even more now. It isn't exactly described as it would be in a travel book - the streets are dark and poky and alcohol seems to be the main source of sustenance - after blood of course. However, Brite makes it sound fresh and intriguing despite all this - no mean feat I think. Brite's attention to detail in describing other settings throughout the course of the book is brilliant too, if a little disgusting at times (the mattress that Zillah et al sleep on is truly gross) and it really brings the book alive.

      My only concern with the book is the amount of sex and how graphic it is. In the first two thirds of the book, there is at least one sex scene in every chapter. Now, I am no prude; in fact, I like reading about sex, but a couple of descriptions in any one book is enough for me. If I want more, I'll read Emanuelle or some other porn literature. It should also be noted that the sex is rarely boy meets girl and falls in love type sex. It is largely homosexual, with the odd bit of incest and rape thrown in, and I've no doubt that it could offend some. And parents might be concerned about their teenagers reading this sort of book, especially when there is no warning on the cover. Personally though, I'd have loved it as a teenager!

      I did enjoy this book, despite the over-enthusiastic sex scenes; it was well-written with great characters and an intriguing plot, and I will certainly look out for more books by the same author. I think anyone interested in horror will enjoy it. However, it may not be the best bet for parents to buy for their teenager, at least not without research to check how appropriate it is. I'm dropping a star for the gratuitous sex, but apart from that, it is definitely recommended, four stars out of five.

      The book is available from play.com for £5.99. Published by Penguin Books, it has 368 pages. ISBN: 9780140173925

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        30.07.2008 23:47
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        A boy, Nothing, runs away and finds out he is a vampire and starts a life of blood, alcohol and sex

        Someone I know has an obsession with this book so when I saw it in the library I decided to give it a go. This is not the kind of thing I would usually pick up, this is about vampires and bands and drugs, sex and alcohol. These vampires are not made, they are born. If they bite a human they can't change them into a vampire, it doesn't work like that.
        Vampire child Nothing comes into the world, killing his human mother with his birth and is left on the doorstep of a human family and grows up knowing he is different but not knowing why. When he is fifteen he runs away and meets a trio of bloodthirsty vampires who spend all their time killing, drinking, taking drugs and have sex.
        And then there are Steve and Ghost, who are the band Lost Souls? whom Nothing feels a connection with. This is the start of a story soaked in blood, very explicit in terms of violence and sex, and yet it totally drew me in. I really grew to care what happened to Nothing and Ghost especially, despite my revulsion at some of the things that were happening. Not for the faint of heart but if you have a reasonably strong stomach then this is a good read. Emo teens will love it.

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        06.01.2007 07:30
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        Four vampires, a half blood, a woman, seer, and man go to New Orleans for love, safety, and revenge.

        While the vampire and gothic culture do often collide, they actually have little to do with one another in reality.

        The blend of traditional vampire tales (i.e. goth children, sensuality) and newfound elements (half-bloods, incest, filing of teeth father than actually having fangs) brings a new view to the vampire.

        All too often they are romanticized and Brite revolutionizes previous views by reminding others of the brutality of the vampire, the possibility of vulnerability, and the idea that they too, are quite human. Perhaps these are not new ideas to some, but she blatantly puts it out there and that is what makes the difference.

        Needless to say, this book is fantastic. I connected with the characters and hate the idea of the story ending. Fortunately, she's carried some of the others into different stories.

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          02.01.2002 05:12
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          • "weak story"

          I'm a bit of a vampire fan, particularly vampire fiction, must be a touch of the goth still left in me!! I'm an avid reader anyway but have never gone out of my way to read Poppy Z Brites work until I found this book in a charity shop for a stunning fifty pence!! I avoided Brites work for a reason, perhaps I should explain. I find most vampires stories set in the present tedious, stereotypical and thouroughly unoriginal, a kind of read one, read em all, kind of thing. And Poppy Z Brite does not disappoint. The story centres around a teenager called Nothing, his mother had sex with a vampire called Zillah, who cams back later along with his cohorts Twig(?) and Molochai. Jessy dies giving birth and Christian (another vampire) takes the baby to Maryland, leaving him on a doorstep with a simple note saying 'His name is Nothing' We then go forward 15yrs where Nothing is called Jason and is inevitably a 'goth' replete with smoking drugs, getting drunk, wearing black and upsetting his parents Sounds shallow? well pretty much all the characters are shallow, the human goths into bisexuality, playing at vampires and cutting themselves, its been done so may times. The vampires evil Zillah who will stop at nothing and enjoys strange sexual habits while his minions Twig and Molochai follow him around. And Christian, the oldest vampire, wise and well meaning but not happy about the life he has to lead. Then there are Ghost and Steve who make up the band Lost Souls? who Nothing runs away to, bumping into Zillah on the way. Ghost is a psychic whos gran was a famous sorceress, I'm sure Brite intended him to play a huge goodie part in the book, but it never comes off, Steve is just his drunk friend pining over Ann his lost girlfriend who unfortunately got knocked up by Zillah. And thats the characters, they interact along the book, you get the feeling that Ghost is supposed to save Nothing but Brite
          then changes her mind. And theres the old 'is he a vampire, isnt he' cliche. (I wont tell you!). One thing that Brite does surprisingly well is the eroticism and sensuality she puts into the book, perhaps she would do better as a Nancy Friday kind of writer. Its surprisingly sexual but again cliched, again the bisexuality, like Nothing getting oral sex from his best male friend, Ghost and Steve hugging up for a long kiss, Nothing falling in love with and having frequent sex with Zillah, this continues after he finds out Zillah is his father, even this fails to shock. I just found this book completely boring, there was no depth what so ever, it took me all of an evening to read it and you cant even get a feel for the characters! Vampire fiction can be written so much better than this, I suggest F.Paul Wilson, esp the Keep, Freda Warringtons 'A Taste of Blood Red Wine' and the classic Carmilla by J Sheridan Le Fanu. In short dont go out of your way to buy it unless you also find it for 50p in a charity shop. Failing that e-mail me your address and I'll give it to you!! Poppy Z Brite. Lost Souls. Penguin Books 1992

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            10.08.2001 22:56
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            My first point has to be that I found this book surprisingly erotic. I have come to expect sex and sensuality in books and films, and particularly in horror to be rather insipid, or at the very least a bit insulting. Butin Poppy Z. Brite world it is affirming and luxurious, at the same time as being dark and bloody. But this is not a book about sex... The story is pleasant and easy to read. The characters melodramatic and endearing, the metaphors colourful, kitsch, rich and delicious. Generally the plot has a 'road-trip' feel, with characters moving around, and several compelling subplots developing in different locations; including the dramatic vampire bartender, waiting the lonely years away in the heart of New Orleans, two wispish small town kids and their self absorbed fragile lives and relationships, a gang of decadent, violent vampires, and a lost, miserable disposessed vampire boy. Usually, I prefer an altogether more pretentious type of book. But although this contained no social comment, no exploration of life-altering themes, I found it's lightness was pleasant, and contributed to the exotic effect of Poppy's poetic writing. Overall, the book is extremely well written, with a lyrical plot and characters and lovely use of language. In stark contrast to other books in the genre, in my experience. However, I probably wouldn't recommend it to those who find goth-kids annoying, or don't enjoy a playful 'gothic' style, as it absolutely drips with it. In fact, its not scary at all, tho as its full of vampires I guess it counts as a horror book. Some parts of the later plot get a bit silly, and slightly tarnish the lovely settings and characters that are developed so well earlier in tho book. But nobody's perfect, eh? ;) Read this one for the lovely melodramatic place it takes you to, with swirling language and imagery, rather than to find out what happens at the
            end. I couldn't put it down.

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              21.02.2001 00:50

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              As a fan of horror literature, I was overjoyed to find Poppy Z. Brite's first novel. Finally someone had come along and breathed in new life! I was rather bored with Anne Rice, and the more traditional vampire literature. It's a great twist on traditional vampirism. Poppy's characters are an odd grouping of punk/goth vampires, psychic country boys, and vampires that like to party. It winds from New Orleans to Carolina and winds up back in New Orleans. The gist is that three vampires impregnated a mortal woman. She dies in childbirth and years later her son, Nothing, begins to feel the vampirical pull. He eventually winds up with the trio that had sired him. From there, things get odd. It’s certainly not for everyone. There is drug use by several characters, it can be rather gory by some standards, and delves into some rather odd sexual situations. If you are looking for a good ride with well drawn characters, look no further. Poppy has two other books out as well as a collection of stort stories. I own almost all of them.

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            Published by RoC