Apologies and Book #6: The Hunger by Whitley Strieber

First allow me to apologize. When I get off track on blogging, I feel exceptionally guilty, to the point that I no longer have the will to write anymore. I fear that I will be judged harshly for not delivering the goods and my work will be viewed with a stronger critical eye and vitriol upon my return. I basically have the beginnings of an anxiety attack just trying to type a post in. So I apologize for the almost 2 month absence from this blog. I want to square everything away before the mini-Cannonball Run Diversion. Something about completing five 400+page books in under 2 weeks. Most of the books I read for fun are 500+pages, so I'm not left wanting for choices. The challenge has a completely nonsensical title that must surely be a reference to a TV show I don't watch or a film I haven't seen. So, buttons. #6: The Hunger by Whitley Strieber What can one say about a highly sexualized modern vampire tale that hasn't already been said? Surely any fan of lurid vampire fiction already views this as passe and longs for novels that would make a Harlequin fan blush. And, being very Catholic, I will admit that I am uncomfortable with this level of in your face sexuality. Lesson learned: think before reading, dumbass. Clearly, since I already saw the film, I should have had a vague idea what I was getting into. The film stars Catherine Deneuve as a bisexual vampire with pedophilia tendencies trying to replace a rapidly aging David Bowie with first a teenage girl and then Susan Sarandon in geek to chic sex kitten mode. I expected Strieber's novel to have inspired the gorgeous subtleties of hot lesbian vampire action done so tastefully in the film. And then I read the first few pages of the book. When the previously mortal lover of natural born vampire Miriam Blaylock, John, sneaks into a NYC apartment to kill and drain a woman in her sleep, the entrance is described as follows,

He satisfied himself that the household was asleep, then began his penetration.

I wanted to believe that it might have just been creative use of terminology. After all, an invader breaking the absolute silence and serenity of a household in the late hours of the night might be viewed as penetrating this sense of peace. And then I began to blush more and more with each page turn. Allow me to focus on the absolute positives of this book. Whitley Strieber created a smart, easily read novel with excellent integration of personal historical occurrences. Scenes that take place in Ancient Greece or Pre-Revolutionary France actually feel period appropriate. The language shifts in subtle, suggestive ways to convey a sense of realism in a very unique vampire novel. That takes quite a bit of skill. Strieber also creates four very distinct narrators in subtly shifted prose styles to indicate their stakes in the matter. Reading Miriam's chapters feels very different than reading John's chapters, which is quite different from sleep research scientist and future sexual victim Sarah's chapters, which again are quite different from her husband Tom's chapters. Perhaps a brief plot description will illuminate the novel. Miriam Blaylock, if that even is her real name, is a vampire. Not just a vampire, but the last remaining member of her species. These vampires can easily pass as human, travel during the day and night, cross running water, and do everything like a normal person, except they will sleep for six hours in every twenty-four hour period. Since giving birth is an immense risk with the species, Miriam opts to take human partners, flipping between the sexes. She looks for men and women who have a predatory instinct, and slowly seduces and indoctrinates them into her lifestyle. Her current partner, Tom Blaylock, is beginning to show the unfortunate side effects of humans introduced to the blood: he is growing old. At a certain point in humans, rapid aging will begin, yet the kiss of death will never arrive. It seems each successive partner lasted a shorter amount of time than the previous. Enter the research of Dr. Sarah Roberts, a sleep pathologist in NYC. She believes that she is on the brink of immortality, and the basis of immortality is in the sleep cycle. It turns out Miriam Blaylock is a huge fan of Sarah Roberts' work. She'd love to help Sarah really discover what it takes to be immortal. And Sarah happens to have the predatory instinct, far stronger than any other human Miriam has pursued. I make the plot sound far more realistic than it actually is. Take, for example, when Miriam shows up to the sleep facility and insists on being examined for night terrors by Dr. Sarah. She strips off her clothes and has the good Dr. sucking on her breasts and fingering her before she could say hello. In a crowed medical research facility in NYC, with hundreds of patients, doctors, and scientists passing by every minute, with security cameras everywhere, no one notices the hot lesbian action in the examination room? Or Mrs. Blaylock's inability to keep her clothes on? Or catches onto how she couldn't possibly have access to all of the research information she can quote back from memory about the condition she's faking and the research currently being conducted at the facility? That's one of the more believable absurdities in the novel. To be honest, The Hunger was a very exciting read. Strieber's prose is gorgeous, if a bit heavy handed with the sexual imagery (do I really need to read 3 paragraphs spans (yes, multiple spans) on personal grooming down there to understand Miriam's perceptive abilities or Dr. Sarah's unnatural attraction to her? Probably not. But without those passages, I might not get to read the heart wrenching fates of Miriam's entire family and her true definition of loyalty in a relationship. If you're itching for a different kind of lesbian vampire experience, and really don't want to deal with subtitles on obscure Italian B-Movies, The Hunger will probably be a great experience. For everyone else, you might as well pick up a cheaper, more readily available Laura K. Hamilton romp and call it a night.

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