Sunday, June 10, 2007
Bitternest by Alan Draven
(iUniverse / 0-595-43204-2 / April 2007 / 354 pages / $19.95)
Most of the cities of America have been devastated by the avian flu epidemic, but one city seems to be surviving better than most. The City of Bitternest, Louisiana, has always enjoyed a reputation for having more than its share of crime, corruption, and sin, much like another place we all know and love, one that has been decimated by a hurricane and a "let them eat cake" administration. Canadian horror author Alan Draven has built a supernatural storyline from a couple of contemporary, and some would say, well-founded, American fears. What if a pandemic wiped out much of the law-abiding population, and what sort of organized criminal element would then take over?
Bitternest is a story much like one of my old favorites in the horror genre, Whitley Strieber's Wolfen. I can easily envision a good B-movie of Bitternest. An experienced police detective whom most everybody likes has lost his wife to the bird flu, leaving his dedication to his job and the others he cares for as his leading reason for living. He discovers that vampires have been quietly existing in Bitternest since forever, and now the bloodsuckers are offering something he needs, the key to the cure for the avian flu. The more he learns about the ancient underworld of Bitternest, the less surprised he becomes by his new discoveries. The vampires are not the only critters haunting the city. Organized crime bosses are planning the takeover of the city with the help of their own brand of creatures of the night.
Alan Draven's first novel offers a lot of promise. The book has been professionally edited, and it shows, although it is not error free. The complex plot is shoved through the reader's mind with adequate pacing and energy. The breakneck pace of the action owes a little too much to the movie Van Helsing instead of to the slower character development of Wolfen, and this fact is probably the story's weakest link. As a horror novel, you could say that Bitternest is the opposite of The Shining. This book will probably be most popular with readers who enjoyed the movie Underworld better than they did Interview with the Vampire. The plotline has been well crafted, but that doesn't change the incredibility of a plethora of monsters coming at you. I would think the story would offer a more menacing punch without such a varied cadre of villains clogging up the plot. Other than this single factor, I enjoyed the book quite a lot, and I realize that this is just my opinion. Others may like the monster barrage. I have read quite a number of vampire and other monster books, and Bitternest is better than average, at the very least. Considering that it is the author's first book, I have to tip my fangs to him.