DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Mortal Companions
Patrick Califia
Suspect Thoughts Press / 328 pages / $16.95
ISBN: 0971084696
(Suspect Thoughts - Adults Only!) Cover

I don't think there have been a lot of reviews for this June release, yet. That's possibly because you can't keyboard in a cold shower. You probably could manage it while involved in other more pleasant activities that offer sexual relief, but whatever you wrote would require heavy editing and possibly hardware replacement.

The basic plot: Ulric, born in 1339, has struggled with the loneliness of immortality for more than six centuries. In his unnatural heart, he desires more than anything, to be loved and accepted by a lover. He can't even share his angst with fellow vampires. The only true vampire he knows of is his sister, Adulfa, and she's despised him ever since he made her a vampire. Even though Ulric has good cause to feel innocent concerning her, Adulfa will never forgive. She visits occasionally just to make sure he painfully remembers that he will live until she devises the perfect punishment. Ulric finds someone who could be the companion he so desires - Mary Beth, a virginal small-town librarian. The librarian is sexually awakened and re-dubbed "Lilith" and Ulric seems to have found a beloved mortal companion. Of course he is well aware of the pain of loving a human who will inevitably age and die and leave him. (He's gone through the process before over the centuries and his previous great love, Alain, was an early victim of the most recent plague -- AIDS.) But turning Lilith into a fellow immortal will take her away from him. Meanwhile, we are kept informed of Adulfa's sex life. Before the end, Adulfa sees, of course, she can use Lilith to wreck revenge against her brother.

The basic sex: Yes. And middle sex. And advanced sex. And kinky sex. And lots of variations. Sex. Sex. Sex. Let's get that clear. This book's so hot your fangs will melt.

The basic horror: Well, not really, unless you count anything with a vampire in it as horror.

As what is probably part of my karmic debt (man, I must have done some bad stuff in some previous life) I've had to read and review a lot of vampire novels the last couple of years. (I did it for the money, okay?) Very few of them add much to a positive argument that the world needs more vampire novels. But vampires are a versatile metaphor that can be put to great literary purpose and relevance and Califia again freshens the fangsters Califia has a lot of escapist fun -- lesbian dominatrix Adulfa is as wicked a perv as possible and commands Rhys to do much more interesting things than Dracula ever ordered Renfield to do; Ulric and Lilith are the perfect, even romantic, Dom/sub ideal, not that Ulric confines himself to topping -- but he's also exploring sexuality and relationship issues and touches on some historic points of interest as well. There are humorous references to stock vampirism that most vamp-readers will catch, but there's also considerable respect for the genre. Most importantly, the novel works because the heaps of sex are integral to the story and the characters, despite their fantastic nature, are convincing.

Califia also develops an interesting vampire history (involving European pagans who honored immortal bloodsuckers as village Elders and a race of vampire cats) and leaves the door open for a sequel. Yes, the world does seem to need another vampire novel -- or two. --review originally appeared in DarkEcho # 36

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Copyright © 2004 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.