Saturday, August 4, 2018

Book Reviews: The Summoning

The Summoning
by Bentley Little
I'm not really a big fan of the strain in vampire fiction that imagines vampires as tortured romantics who sparkle, bisexual goths, or private eye stand-ins who reluctantly protect humanity against even worse threats. To each their own but I prefer the concept of vampire as monster and/or parasite. That is why I started the reread of this older book which I picked up in a now closed bookstore all those years ago. I was looking for something with vampires with a little bite, so to speak. This book has a definite thematic resemblance to King's Salem's Lot.

In both stories, the vampire is attracted to a decaying town, a small ragtag group of believers try to do battle against the creature, and human vice is an important part of the story. But because this is Little, and not King, perversion and vice are dominant parts of the storyline to the point where they choke out other elements. YMMV on this. There's a thin line between pushing the envelope of horror imagery and creating things solely to disgust and shock. I think Little tends towards the latter. 

The Summoning is set in the town of Rio Verde, Arizona. Rio Verde has seen better days. Most of the town's young people leave for greener pastures upon graduating high school. With the closure of mines and rerouting of expressways there's less and less economic activity within the town. One person who notices this acutely is Sue Wing, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Sue's parents run a Chinese restaurant; Sue, her younger brother and her aged grandmother help. Sue's in her early twenties and drifting thru life. Sue didn't have the money to go to a first rate college. Her parents aren't poor, but they're far from rich. They don't have thousands and thousands of dollars at hand. Set in the early nineties, this book imagines that there are still a fair number of people who won't patronize the Wing restaurant for prejudiced reasons. 

Trying to get things together Sue decides to get college credit by becoming an intern at the local paper. The paper is run by Rich Carter, who's having problems keeping the paper and his marriage viable. Rich's big brother Robert is the local police chief.

When a local amoral itinerant preacher has a vision of Jesus, he is inspired to build a new church and increase his congregation. It is a bit odd that the church will be painted all black with blacked out windows. And it's even stranger that the preacher speaks so lovingly of sharing blood and flesh with Jesus. Animals and a few hobos are found drained of not just blood but every last single bodily fluid. More people across the town start to have visions of Jesus or other figures who beat death. More people are found dead. Sue's grandmother starts to give Sue warnings, at first cryptic and later more direct. Some people in Sue's and Rich's family begin to act strangely. This was an okay book but the reveal of what is already obvious from page five took way too long. As a result the confrontation between the monster and heroes is rushed. It was difficult for me to hold interest at various points in the book. 

I will say though that the author did a great job of describing the isolation and coldness of the desert night. Again, this is not a book for people who can't tolerate lengthy visceral descriptions of violence or twisted sex. It does offer a different take, a Chinese take, on the vampire legend.
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