If nothing else, early 21st century America has been extraordinarily kind to vampires. You can hardly visit an online store or browse your way through a decent bookshop these days without bumping into one hyper-erotic, blood-crazed spectacle of supernatural nocturnes or another.
If it’s not the redneck voodoo vamps of Charlaine Harris’ Southern vampire mysteries running amok in Creepsville, La., then it’s the young adult euro-vamps of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga duking it out in Forks, Wash.
Like our own self-perpetuating fantasy-nightmare that we can’t (and/or aren’t inclined to) escape, the dapper dark ones have fixed their fangs so ubiquitously into the very marrow of our collective subconsciousness that we have become even more dependent on them than they are on us.
Intriguingly, it is into this fang-friendly environment that Bellingham author James Brotherton has unleashed Reclaiming the Dead—his self-published debut novel in which dozens, if not hundreds, of vampires come to meet their grisly, long-overdue demise at the hands of one of the most down-on-his-luck, 20-something slackers to ever make Des Moines, Iowa his home .
Freshly unemployed and reduced to selling his blood for cash, Merton Daniels is the living embodiment of low self-esteem. Pile the harsh disappointment of getting dumped by his girlfriend and the enigmatic, ever-lingering effects of his father’s suicide on top of that, and you’ve got the makings of a man on the verge of embarking on a perpetual bender.
However, before this walking monument of self-pity manages to dissipate himself thusly, he finds himself unwittingly recruited by a cryptic worldwide organization called the Bureau of Reclamation.
His task: to rid the surrounding countryside of vampires.
Even though the pay is marginal and working conditions are downright scary, Merton is just desperate enough to accept.
Upon securing the assistance of his roommate and long-suffering childhood buddy Coaler, he initiates a comprehensive, pickup-truck-assisted campaign to root the bloodsucking minions out of their nests—an undertaking which, while not without its attendant array of hazards, allows them to amass a handsome treasure trove of plundered household goods.
While the bulk of the physical action in Reclaiming the Dead centers around the sundry gore-inflected vampire-slaying exploits of this endearingly semi-dysfunctional duo of modern-day Van Helsings, it is toward the metaphorical resolution of Merton’s conflicted emotional state that Brotherton builds and intertwines the climactic arc of the drama.
Essentially his message is this: What living person in this world doesn’t walk around carrying a deep, dark secret or two? And who among us wouldn’t choose to free ourselves of said burdens if or when the opportunity presented itself—even if it meant you had to crawl into some strange, dark basement in the middle of godforsaken Iowa and drive a croquet pin through your third putrid, half-decomposed flesh pile of the night?
If you’re pining for another beefcake vampire romance, Reclaiming the Dead probably isn’t your thing. But if you’ve got the hankering for a lively, harrowingly insightful, coming-of-age meditation, you’re in for a real treat.
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