The Quick by Lauren Owen
I love book recommendations. Honestly. I read websites like The Millions or Charlie Jane Anders over on i09. Friends who read something. If I see an article on the side of a page. If another author I like says, You should read this, or leaves a blurb or if it gets compared to something that I do like. I’ll add it to my to read list. My Kindle is over 600 books deep.
But I also use a random generator to select my next read. So sometimes it’ll be several years or months before I get to a book. And then I totally can’t remember why I put it on there. Such was this one. I re-read the description on Goodreads. It described a vampire novel that involved a poet who went missing and a mysterious butcher named Doctor Knife. And I’m like, oh, yeah, that’s right. HELL YEAH.
Now, all of that stuff was in the book. But not quite as advertised. This was a case of “trailer-bait.” That amazing thing where a trailer for a movie looks so appetizing and the description sounds phenomenal, and then you finally settle in to it and you’re just…underwhelmed isn’t even quite a strong enough word. Disappissed-off.
Lauren Owen’s book has the delicious flavor of Victorian book. And it’s not quite aping anyone in particular but feels of that same genre — a bit Dickensian, a bit Austenian, a bit Bronte-ish. It starts down a few charming passageways — the opening of the book is kind of remarkable as it’s really about a slightly dilettante-ish poet who meets a rich cad and becomes roommates with him while he tries to write. Instead, he starts a forbidden gay affair.
But then, vampires attack them.
And so it becomes a vampire tale. Max Landis explains something his father told him in his video “The Death and Return of Superman.” How do you kill a vampire? You can kill a vampire any way you want to because vampires don’t fucking exist. So the rules are slightly different here: garlic and consecrated ground don’t work, holy water and sunlight makes them sluggish, fire and decapitation work best, silver is painful, stake through the heart not so much. But the logic in that really is fallible. If holy ground and churches have no deleterious effects, why would holy water? Vampires can touch fire and heal, but sometimes the draw is so strong they’ll burn completely to death. And various and other sundry weirdness.
Doctor Knife is less enthralling than the name would imply. Charlotte knows where her brother is. Instead, the book kind of feels like a good Victorian novel about homosexual relations that someone punched a vampire fist through. Like that onslaught of redone classic novels that got sci-fi updates by authors whose original works were way better in the long run?
I’d definitely read a second Lauren Owen novel, even though I was less than thrilled with this one. Like Ben Winters and Seth Graham-Smith, I’d like their other stuff better, I’d be willing to bet. But it wasn’t quite what I expected.