Tuesday, December 8, 2009

99 Coffins

I mentioned previously that I had come up with a goofy way of selecting books to read. I don't think I'm going to follow through with it too much. I got it in my head that I would read books that contain a number in the title and would try to read books containing numbers from 1 to 100. I started with David Wellington's 99 Coffins.

With Halloween being recent and the whole Twilight/New Moon saga that has gripped our youth, I've been in a bit of a vampire mood myself and was looking for a vampire book. I came across this one which gave me the number idea.

As I approached the ending of the book, I tried to figure out why I was finishing it. It was a lousy book. First, the author took immense liberties with the "traditional" vampire. The vampires have mouths like sharks, not regular mouths with fangs. They age like everything else in the universe. An older vampire, typically exemplary of a powerful vampire, is weak in this story. Perhaps worst of all, the humans in the story don't really think it is too out of the ordinary that vampires exist. It's sort of like having a grizzly bear loose. Rare, very troublesome, but not something that would cause you to freak out.

Second, the author isn't really a good writer. Perhaps it is because I appreciated his lack of ability that I continued reading it. Sort of like how we root for the David Ecksteins of the world. I think part of me was saying "Good for you, David, that you enjoy writing enough to put this out (his fifth book) and that you got someone to publish it even though it is crap".

The main character, a lesbian Pennsylvania state trooper named Laura Caxton, is recruited by her mentor (from Wellington's first book), a longtime vampire hunter who was ravaged by vamps in the first book, to investigate the possibility of some vampire skeletons that were found in an archeological dig in Gettysburg, PA. Caxton goes out and, sure, enough, 100 coffins are found, one of which is empty and smashed, the other 99 which contain vampire bones but no hearts (In Wellington's universe, hearts are to vampires like batteries are to flashlights). Soon it is discovered that the smashed coffin is the result of a living vampire who is in search of the vampire hunter because he is in possession of the vampire who created the vampire who smashed the coffin.

Why does the vampire hunter run around the countryside with an old vampire? Because the courts refuse to let him destroy it. Of course. And why does this unearthed vamp want to destroy her? We never find out. He just says that she had to be destroyed. OK.

Turns out that these unearthed vampires were made by this other vampire back in the Civil War Era. Those Damn Yanks got it in their head that an army of vampires would be pretty effective against the Rebs. They were to be unleashed at Gettysburg but when Lee's forces were turned away, the guy in charge of the vampire army decided to keep them buried for safe keeping. The tide of the war changed, the army was never needed, and they stayed there until the dig that unearthed them.

What made this book crummy, outside of the lack of traditional vampires and the inexplicable plot? The structure was a bit irritating. 99 chapters, the odd ones take place in present day with Caxton, the even ones are correspondence or other written artifacts from those involved with the Civil War vampire. The last chapters indicate that the mind behind the vamp army was going to destroy these documents. Then why am I reading them?

There was very little difference in tone between the current day chapters and the older ones. Some 1800's lingo here and there is the sole effort to make them differ. The author is trite and predictable and repetitive. Caxton's blood ran cold so many times, I thought she was a lizard. Wellington describes Caxton's actions frequently as "following proper police procedure". But she and the hunter are dummies and cannot see the plot unfold as easily as I did. I guess it's the fear that caused them to not think clearly.

All in all, a lot of crap. Not as bad as Time Traveler's Wife or New England White. Probably not as bad as Museum Guard even. But still a pretty crummy book.


Mark's Ephemera said...

Interesting. But not enough to make me want to read it.

Have you read Harry Turtledove's Guns of the South?

Alternate history. US Civil war. A band of time traveling pro-white South Africans deliver a cache of AK-47s to a North Carolina infantry unit to help their cause.

That's the summary from what I can remember. I might be off on some of the details.

wikipedia entry.

Mad Guru said...

Please don't read this book. It was bad.

I've not read Turtledove or Frenchhen for that matter. I'm not normally into military history (fiction or non) and only really chose this book because of the vamps and the number in the title. Bad move on my part.