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Given the recent success of the film version of Matheson's "I Am Legend", it's not a surprise that anything featuring humans fighting vampires should be optioned for a film version. Admittedly, the identity of the enemy is really the only thing the two books have in common, but on reading this one, I can see exactly why the film industry would be interested.
Gunn shows us how the vampires first seized control after the break down of civilisation. We are briefly introduced to their human guards and the methods they use to keep them and the human populace under control. After this, it's straight into the action, as a group of rebels seek to destroy their local group of vampires, led by Nero.
There is little subtlety to their methods, mostly involving the humans destroying and killing as many of the vampires and as much of their possessions as they can. As would be expected, the vampires fight back and the rebel humans have to defend themselves as well as they have been attacking, or they risk being wiped out.
The basic storyline is as predictable as it sounds, sadly, with all the aspects you would expect to find in many a Hollywood action movie. Apart from the brief introduction as to how the vampires took over the world, virtually none of the characters have any back story. This is only a minor issue until a point later in the story where a critical character appears virtually out of nowhere and his motives and intentions were never made clear, despite there clearly being some history between him and the vampires.
This means that the story does lack a bit of depth, although with the two sides being humans and vampires, there is never any doubt as to which side the reader should be cheering for. There are hints of relationships between the rebels and one man risks an important mission to save his long lost family. But even these aspects of the story are pretty much Hollywood clichés for an action film and this seems to be what Gunn had his eye on when he was writing the book. Every step of the way, the feeling I get from the book is that he was writing a film rather than a novel.
Whilst this means that what you get is very clichéd and the focus is on action rather than plot and character development, it also means that the action quotient is very high and the pace of the story is mostly breathless. Every part of the book either contains something important happening, or a prelude to something important happening, or both sides drawing breath after something important happening. Unfortunately, as it's always largely brainless action, it's not as difficult to put down as a tightly plotted thriller, although I did find that as the story built to the climax, it did get a little more difficult to turn away.
With the aim seemingly being a film deal, this does mean the book has quite a visual quality. Whilst the characters themselves are left slightly obscure, such that you can't really picture what they might look like, everything else from the vampires to the serum they use to control the humans has colour and is well described. When some of the vampires change shape, the new shapes are easy to picture and every drop of wound suffered by either side is well documented to the point that you could almost see the blood soaked faces of the humans, if only you'd been given enough detail to picture the face as well as you can the blood.
For all the clichés, though, Gunn has come up with a couple of ideas that were new to me. The idea of using humans as guards by biting them and turning them into Thralls - humans with extra strength and extremely loyal to the vampires - was one I don't recall seeing before. The other method of human control, by inventing a serum that is a combination of a couple of drugs was also a nice touch and there were a couple of moments that suggested Gunn had researched this bit more thoroughly than anything else, which gave it a touch of realism that wasn't present elsewhere in the novel.
It was these parts that just elevated the book above the mundane. In most ways, there was very little to set this apart from any other all-action type book. There was very little depth to it and I found the frequent plot holes and events happening without explanation a little annoying, but there were enough explosions and killings to keep the action fan interested. This is the kind of book that won't really appeal to those who enjoy reading for pleasure, as you'll have read better and likely be annoyed by the lack of depth but if you enjoy a good action film, this is exactly the kind of book you'd want to be reading. As with most books and films of this type, it's one to borrow as it wouldn't stand up to repeated readings and with a cheapest price of £4.05 from the Amazon Marketplace, it certainly isn't worth buying. It should be said, though, that if this is your kind of thing, this is certainly an acceptable example.
This is a slightly amended version of a review previously published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk