Thursday, May 29, 2014

Drawing Blood

Poppy Z Brite
Completed 5/9/2014, Reviewed 5/27/2014
4 stars

I discovered Poppy Z. Brite accidentally while researching books for the numerous challenges on Worlds Without End, Wikipedia, and other sites.  Now I can finally say that I’ve read fiction by a transgendered person.  I also discovered that Horror, while a genre in its own right, also falls under the category of Fantasy.  “Drawing Blood” was nominated for the World Fantasy Award in 1994.  So a couple of firsts for me, and I’m proud to say that it all happened through this book.  In a wild update of the haunted house theme, Brite creates an engrossing tale of terror, violence, and love among disaffected youth.

Trevor’s father was a moderately famous graphic novelist.  After a long period of personal suffering and alcoholism, he murdered Trevor’s mother and baby brother, then hung himself.  Trevor is found by family friends later the next day, nearly catatonic. 
Twenty years later, having survived growing up in an orphanage and finding solace himself as a graphic novelist, he returns to the home where the tragedy occurred.

Zack is one of the best computer hackers around.  After getting a tip that the feds are after him, he dashes out of town, chancing upon the same town as Trevor.  They fall in love, and together try to overcome the powerful forces in the house that are trying to drag Trevor down the same road as his father.

Brite’s forte is prose and characterization, my two favorite aspects of a book.  The book begins with the recounting of the original murder.  The rest of the first half of the book is wonderfully written descriptions of the events leading up to Zach and Trevor’s meeting in the town of Missing Mile, NC.  They are Generation X-ers.  Reading this book twenty years later, I could easily see them as hipsters/Millennials, having the same attitudes and interests, or rather disinterests, as the disaffected youth of today.  Trevor is withdrawn, almost asocial.  He has no intimacy and no connections.  Zach on the other hand is hypersocial and hypersexual, but ultimately has no real intimacy either. 

Inevitably, they meet, and fall for each other.  But there’s a third in this relationship, the house.  This relationship is what dominates them and the rest of the book.  The house provides electricity and running water without public service, and of course causes creepy noises, loud bangs, and hallucinations galore.  I have to admit, it made going to bed at night a little tough for a few days. 

I think my favorite part of the book was its refreshing take on a non-heteronormative relationship (I admit, I just heard the word on NPR).  I had just read “The Steel  Remains” which featured gay and Lesbian heroes in a high-fantasy context, so jumping into a gay/bisexual horror novel almost made me feel like the world had changed a little.  Brite’s target audience seems to be the young and disaffected, but I felt I could relate to the characters and the situation more than those in a Stephen King novel. 

I really enjoyed this novel.  If I had read it when it was first published, I believe I could have given it a 5 star rating because I would have been closer in age to the characters.  I still give it a glowing 4 stars.  It’s an excellent psychological thriller that makes me want to read all of Brite’s works and sad that he’s no longer writing.  

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