Sunday, November 17, 2013

Living Sketches, Addictions, Vampires and Goths? Perverse!

First Paragraph:

""Perverse" was Emylene Stipe's signature response to just about everything. Others her age were more apt to say "cool" or "wicked" or "awesome", but you knew Emylene was in the house when you heard, "Loved that band last night- so perverse", or "She's hanging with that dude? Perverse!" Or, "I hate people who eat with their mouths open, they're so perverse."


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Perverse is a supernatural tale by Larry Rodness.


Emylene Stipe is a Toronto-living, nineteen year-old goth, who is known as the 'goth princess' to her friends due to her parents high status. They fight for all rights goth, and proudly lead the dark wave. But Emylene's problem is wondering how to 'rebel against a family of rebels'. She's reached those argumentative you-don't-understand-me years, and she's itching to take on the authority figures that are her parents. 

As with many teens she butts heads with them a lot, and everyone is at the end of their tether. Eventually Emylene moves out- giving everyone some well needed breathing room. Living only a dozen blocks away gives her independence, with security. 

Her newest passion is Stelio- a forty year-old Greek who speaks right to Emylene's heart, starting with the first black rose he leaves hanging on her doorknob. When the two are wandering down the street one day, Emylene notices Stelio tense when he lays eyes on a charcoal sketch in an old antique shop. He makes nothing of it, but of course Emylene has to have it. 

She hangs the barren, snowy landscape on her bare, bleak wall, entranced by the solitary cypress tree in its centre. But the sketch has secrets, ones little Emylene will soon discover, starting with footprints in the drawn snow, and the beautiful young girl who left them.


I went into this book knowing very little about it. I tend to be of the mind frame that the less you know, the better. Anyway, this meant I was not aware this was a 'vampire book', but I found it a refreshingly bearable use of the urban legends. Yes ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is a story about (or maybe 'including' is better?) vampires- known here as Vrykolakas. This may be a mild spoiler as we're not given this information until about a third of the way through the book, but it's a little hard to talk about the book without mentioning them. 

I want to say this first, vampires have had a very bad rap since becoming a trend some years ago. More specifically, since they shifted from blood-thirsty creatures of terror to romanticised, teenage fantasy boy hunks. The progression is not necessarily a bad thing in itself (if done well- which unfortunately was not often the case), but the over saturation definitely was. Soon most everyone was sick of the fanged denizens of the night. 

These vampires, while they may not be 'traditional', at least have the concept of one. Of creatures who seduce their prey, while malevolence burns in their eyes. While they never reach 'horror vampire' status, they are at least a far cry from 'romantic, sparkly' vampires too. Personally, I find terrifying vampires who want to rip my throat out, far more interesting than teen idol vamps. We have enough teeny-boppers sucking the life out of us already- without having to read about them in what was once a majestic and revered genre. I for one am glad to be getting back to it.

Now, first and foremost this may appear to be a story of the supernatural, but a lot of emphasis and time is placed on prejudices. The age-old fact that many people fear those who are different, or things they don't understand. A lot of the story focuses on Emylene's feeling of being an outcast (as many teens do), but on a more extreme level using her 'goth-ness' as a metaphor for many other forms of bigotry. 

There is also some exploration of social and political issues, as well as satire on desire and obsession- if a little exaggerated. The lies we tell to convince ourselves and those around us that one more 'hit' won't hurt. It looks at the very nature of addiction. There is no black and white, no clear answer. Social stigma has been around since the dawn of humanity, and addiction was not far behind. Everyone has one- usually more. Some less harmful than others, but all as all-consuming as each other. The book also briefly touches on why we seem to need addictions. Are we so unhappy in our daily lives that we have to create an escape or false happiness through objects or actions? 

It becomes a force of habit, a placebo, Pavlov's dog. It makes us feel good, because we associate it with emotions from previous times. Whether or not that is real happiness is up for debate, but suffice to say that as a species we can never be addiction free. But (depending on the form of the addiction) maybe that's not a bad thing. We all have cravings, and to ignore all of them would be unhealthy. So the question becomes not so much about kicking the addiction, but in choosing the ones that are the least harmful, and of moderation. Anything can be addictive- sex, drugs, coffee, exercise, reading, etc. As a species we are naturally inclined to overindulgence, making us susceptible to addiction. This book goes a little into the 'darker' addictions, and exactly how far we are willing to go, and how much we will tolerate to satisfy the cravings. The vampires act as a 'channel' for addiction, prejudice, etc, etc, discussing the very real topics, while making them more ambiguous and universal through non-existent beings. 

Anyway, this book seems 'act-driven'. It's almost like three different stories blended together. Each interconnected, but separate. It's not so much that the POV switches (though occasionally it does), but more of the focus shifting. You start with Emylene's, then the focus switches to another character, and finally another (I won't say who because they could be considered spoilers). Each time a new story is introduced, we get taken further back into the past- through the different generations and circumstances that brought them together. The main focus is still on Emylene, but when the other two get their turns, she becomes more of a secondary character. 

The end was a little too easy in my opinion. It came together just a little too neatly. You spend some two hundred or so pages getting to that point, and it's all over in just a few. Though the last line adds a final element of mystery, and possibly a hint at a sequel (though I like the open ending as is). 

On a brief side note, I felt the antique shop owner who sold the sketch to Emylene in the first place, was a little stupid considering that he knew exactly what it held within its image. How hard would it have been to say, "It's not for sale"? But then I suppose we wouldn't have a story. 


I breezed through the smooth-flowing writing quickly, and the only times I felt any kind of 'road block' was when the story meandered slightly when the story switches its focus character. 

As I said earlier, I am very glad to see violent, demonic vampires again. This is the first 'vampire book' in a long time that I have enjoyed at all- let alone actually liked. 

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

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