Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising
In its concept, this book earns major nerd points. It’s a vampire-hunter action novel with a modern setting, but the concept is inspired by the Villa Diodati summer (during which Mary Shelley conceived the concept behind Frankenstein), and the book features Lord Byron as an evil vampire wreaking havoc on the environs of Lake Geneva. Now, I confess, for some reason I’m a sucker for anything having to do with the Romantics – I just find them fascinating – and I find their early forays into speculative fiction fascinating as well. So of course I was pleased to see a YA action novel draw on their works and historical setting. Henderson has obviously done his research – he incorporates references, some of them cleverly subtle, both to Shelley and co. and to the granddaddy of all vampire novels, Dracula. (He also earns nerd points (from a different type of nerd crowd) for his references to manga, Star Wars, etc.)
Essentially, though, the book is at its core an action novel, and therefore doesn’t pay much attention to development of characters or setting, skipping over those in favor of extra explosions and other cool special effects. (Needless to say, there’s not much focus on themes, either, moral or otherwise.) Featuring teenaged Alex Van Helsing, a descendant of (yes) that family, the story involves a secret society of vampire hunters pitted against an ancient evil. (Could you have guessed?) The “school” of the vampires is rather incongruous, and the evil vampire overlord is just silly. But it was still refreshing to read a vampire story in which the vampires were emphatically not sexy, misunderstood, lovey-dovey heroes. These vampires can actually be repelled by holy water and wooden stakes, thank goodness!