Sunday, December 18, 2016

Book Review: Certain Dark Things By Silvia Moreno Garcia

Certain Dark Things By Silvia Moreno Garcia

Hardcover, 323 pages

Published October 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books

NPR's best books of 2016 Science Fiction and Fantasy.

People act real surprised every time someone does something clever and original with vampires. I get it there is a shit-ton of vampire fiction out there. Most of it is unreadable garbage, but I think every dark fiction authors deserves a chance to put there spin on the creature and bring a unique set of tools to the table. We have seen Mexican vampires before, most famously in Del Toro's Cronos, but Silvia Moreno Garcia not only brings fresh take a but skillfully built world and page turner at that.

In this novel the existence of vampires became public knowledge in 1969. Slowly the vampires became a part of society, there are many species and sub-species of vampires in this world. Many are geographical and culturally evolved. The book comes with a glossary which explains the ins and outs of the vampires and their history. I found this unnecessary and only referred to it once. The world-building is clearly one of the books strengths. Many of the details listed at the back of the book have little bearing on this story but it is clear the author has this whole world thought out in great detail. Reading it we sense that we are seeing the tip of the iceberg and I hope we come back to this world again.

Certain Dark things has more than one narrative point of view although a homeless teenager named Domingo is the lead character. When we meet Domingo he surviving on the streets of Mexico city by collecting trash. His life changes when he meets Alt, she is a vampire that comes from a Aztec background. Her biology requires that she feed from the young, but lets face it she likes the younger cleaner blood and who can blame her? Quickly we learn that she doesn't have to kill the young man to feed. Domingo however is struck by her, not really love but more fascination. Vampires are spread through out the world including the Necros the European style vampire fill up the surrounding country. Gangs of vampires and drug cartels battle beyond the city limits but in Mexico City the vampires are illegal. Domingo has read about the vampires but never met one. Why would Alt risk coming to Mexico City? This is what drives the narrative, a vendetta with rival drug dealing family of vampires is the reason she is on the run.

The novel is well structured switching POV's with great rhythm between Domingo, Alt, the antagonist Nick and my favorite character the police detective Ana. The story of the detective who killed vampires but came to Mexico City to escape them was interesting enough to carry its own novel. Ana is dragged back into that world and certainly we feel for her. Domingo had a chance to survive his one vampire encounter, but he couldn't forget about Alt. He walks back into that world and offers to be her Renfield a clever slang for the familiars in this universe.

Domingo has to come of age, but it is hard as he falls deeper and deeper for this various dangerous creature, we learn just how inhuman she is. One of the novel's strongest moments happens between them:

"But you are a good Vampire," He blurted out.

Of course there is no such thing and he knew it before he even said it. But he liked to believe it.

Certain Dark Things is excellent example of what a vampire novel could be. The Characters are strong, the writing is fast-paced, and it paints a vision of world we have not seen before. What more can you ask for? A sequel? I am sure Moreno-Garcia wants to write another. So I hope you'll listen to me and get yourself a copy.

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