The Light at the End by John Skipp and Craig Spector

As a voracious reader, I always try to explore fringe genres, but my heart is always with the well-written books with believable and fleshed-out characters, human drama and serious choices both characters and readers have to make.

Horror is one of those borderline cases when an exceptionally well-written novel with flawed but interesting characters and an insight into the psyche of a human mind cam enthrall me. Unfortunately, I believe this is not a case. I gave this novel three stars, but this rating is only valid within the frame of splatterpunk fiction (a literary genre characterized by the explicit description of horrific or violent scenes). In the bigger frame of fiction, this novel deserves only two stars.

The novel is definitely abundant in scenes of violence and gore, and some of them are truly repulsive if you look at them objectively. On the other hand, everyone knows, objectivity in portrayal is not the most laudable adjective. The subjective perception is everything in fiction. The more you can relate to it, the more memorable the writing is. This is what this book lack. Despite the gory and grisly scenes, they did not stir any feelings of fear or repulsion. The setting was a traditional one for a vampire story. I am very well aware that we do not have many choices when it comes to the time of the events in a horror novel, but the nights in the novel, although they harbor ugly scenes of murder, do not create the natural spooky, creepy feeling. Night is just a time when most of the events took place in this novel, and the dark enigma of the wee hours till dawn is totally non-existent.

The other thing that is only attributable to the zeitgeist, but still quite unpleasant is homophobia. The evolving values of today’s world warp my interpretation and leave the tangy, bitter and unpleasant sediment in the wake of the book.

To counterbalance my negative arguments, I still want to justify my choice for three stars (again only within the frame of this genre). First and foremost, the vampire Rudy is a nasty, ugly being from the very beginning. He does not suffer from the complex of modern vampirism – I am a vampire, but I want to be a good guy, and I am conflicted, and my soul is torn apart by my intentions and true identity. He is rotten through and through. There is not a morsel of goodness in him. This is how monsters should look like.

Surprisingly, the books also provides an interesting insight into the philosophy of nihilism. Although the premise for this view is interesting and appealing (our world is non-cognizant, and we will never learn what is good and what is evil, and justice is not inherent in our universe; thus there is no point in trying to better the world around us), but the development of this idea leads to acts of terrorism and extremism as well as to the utmost egotism and gratification. This is clearly manifested in Rudy, the human being and the vampire. It is rarely a case when such a complex idea could be clearly explained and put into the appropriate context.

The most memorable moment in the novel has nothing to do with the imaginary horror, but with our human history. The character with the Holocaust past narrates the story of his experience, and this is the most disturbing moment in the whole books. I find it both enlightening and nonsensical. It is a story that is harrowing in its nature due to our own ability to acquiesce to the dogma and doctrine of ethnic cleansing; a reminder of that kind even in the most grotesque context is always a necessary reading experience. Conversely, the setting for the Holocaust survival story is the most bizarre one – who would anticipate this story in a horror novel about vampires? Consequently, it does contribute to the jarring discrepancy of ideas within the book. 

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Filed under Book Review, Holocaust, Horror, Splatterpunk, Uncategorized, Vampire

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