Poppy Z. Brite
Completed 7/11/2014, Reviewed 7/18/2014
“Lost Souls” is Brite’s first novel. It is an atmospheric alternative to the vampire mythology of Anne Rice. Rather than Rice’s subtle gay subtext, Brite’s vampires are overtly bisexual. And vampires aren’t made, their born. But like Rice, the main struggle for the vampire is about isolation and the search for connectedness.
The book is primarily about a boy named Nothing, a vampire orphan who begins coming into an understanding of his true nature at the age of fifteen. He runs away from home in search of the “Lost Souls”, a small-town band to whom he feels a deep kinship. Ghost and Steve, the young adult members of the band, live their own lives of quiet desperation in rural North Carolina. There, they all happen across a gang of sadistic adult vampires, with one of whom Nothing finds companionship and perhaps love. When they leave North Carolina for New Orleans, Ghost and Steve follow them, hoping to save Nothing from the evil that seems to be in store for him.
“Lost Souls” is great on prose and great on character development. Everything is described quite exquisite detail. Nothing, Ghost, and Steve all have the angst that was so prominent in the goth culture of the ‘90s. What’s sorely lacking is plot. The characters go around moping or causing havoc, but there is no real suspense as these characters meet, separate, and come back together for the finale. While the storytelling is great, there isn’t much story to tell.
I feel like I did a disservice to myself reading a later book of Brite’s first. By about halfway through “Souls”, I realized she had done basically the same story much better in the context of a ghost story in “Drawing Blood”. There, the meet and chase concept was much tighter. The plot kept me going while I enveloped myselft in her prose. “Souls” seems all atmosphere, no substance.
Perhaps if I had been involved more deeply in the goth culture of the ‘90s, not just hanging out at a pagan coffeeshop on Goth Night to read Clive Barker while pale make-upped kids oozed on the dance floor to The Cure and Marilyn Manson, I might have been more affected by the book. Instead, it just felt more like a reminiscing of a passing fad. I really liked the alternative vampire mythology, but even that couldn’t keep me from the occasional boredom.
I give this book 3 stars out of 5. It’s a good book, just not that powerhouse I expected after reading “Drawing Blood”. Still, I must say that Brite is a really good writer. I still look forward to reading her third horror novel. And I’m sad that she’s no longer writing in the genre.