Sunday, March 8, 2015

Indie Book Corner: Eyes of the Sun, by Christina McMullen
Free Today 3/8/2015 and Typically On Sale Often

A science fiction take on vampirism more akin to (the good) Blade movies than Nosferatu.

I liked this book, a lot!  It has a lot going for it.  Interesting characters, check.  Engaging dialogue, check.  Likable main character, check.  Cool premise, check.  A sense of humor, check.  Does it stand out from the crowd of other vampire fiction, triple check!  Eyes of the Sun hits every point on my like-o-meter and then some.

So vampires are a thing here, yes, but they are not at all what you think they are.  I'll leave the explanation to the author.  But it's interesting because it's all influenced by biology and evolution.  Run of the mill humans are more similar to vampires than one would think.  Some humans have even evolved an enzyme inside of their blood that can prove harmful or even fatal to vampires as a biological deterrent to getting preyed upon.  So when they're getting the life drained out of them by one of the bloodsuckers they can pull a Call of Duty 'Martyrdom' type move and drop the proverbial grenade on their vampiric foes to get the last laugh.  Vampires also come in different breeds here.  Some have been genetically modified to possess stronger vampire traits and some, the highest in the social order, are inbred from ancient families to achieve a purity in their bloodlines.  Whatever form of vampire you have they're all stronger, faster, and more agile than humans.


The humans have technology.
That reminds me of the awesome F2P multiplayer game Nosgoth which is based around this very concept.  Vamps have the powers but humans have the tools.  The humans in question here are members of the EJC, which I'll admit is a slight spoiler for like the first three chapters.  Anyway the EJC seems like an ordinary research company to the uninitiated but is actually a tight nit group of very dedicated men and women who take to the streets at night to combat these vampires.  They use technology developed in-house and have been specifically trained for the eradication of the vampires preying on people on the city streets.  The EJC's technology is much improved over what we use today but it's not too far removed.  It seems that to be a member you have to have the enzyme that proves fatal to vampires in your blood, I'm not sure if I misremembered that or not.  They have a complex system of hunters, scientists, doctors, watchers, and artist to aid in their goal of protection of the human race.

It has...

Moral Complexity.
Is killing the vampires right?  Do they deserve punishment?  It's not so cut and dry of an answer just like real life.

Social issues aren't shied away from.
What happens when you pair a gay, anti-religious, anti-war vampire hunter with a huge, religious, military veteran vampire hunter?  Well hilarious needling for one.  But also an actual conversation about these issues straight up.  Nothing preachy but it is addressed as Lucy tries to figure out just how these two haven't destroyed each other yet.

Which leads to...

A likable, funny, tough, and complex cast.
Every time I was introduced to a new character I found something fascinating about them or just found them enjoyable.  Just like real life, these fictional characters are complex and multifaceted.  Even if you don't like something about them you may find a trait about them that you do like.  The dialogue was snappy and filled with wit and the character interactions were just equal parts hilarious and heartfelt.  You really get the feeling by the end of this that the EJC was like one big family.  It's really fun getting to know everyone.

There is romance and it's done really well.
Not much to say here without spoiling stuff.  I'll just say that it's obvious who gets together.  The author even hints at it through palm reading before we meet the love interest.  The joy here is in the journey, not the outcome and what a sexy journey it was.

The main character.
Lucy is pretty cool.  She's whip smart and mostly normal but has a nerdy streak.  She is educated, has a bit of a chip on her shoulders, and is quite used to losing family.  She starts this book alone in a new city with only two close friends, who it turns out she knows nothing about.  Lucy is naturally inquisitive and observant which are both good and bad traits in the world of vampire hunting and survival.  Another good and bad trait that's strong in her is her stubborn streak.  She just does not give up and when she feels a certain way it’s hard for her to simply 'go with the flow.'  She'll speak up and she'll make some changes before she accepts something she isn't comfortable with and *spoiler ahead* this makes her a very unorthodox yet effective vampire hunter.  Her reckless fighting style is actually pretty cool and makes sense for her in the beginning.  And *huge spoiler ahead* her blood, which is a combination of modified vampire and hunter, which is an incredibly rare mix may at first glance seem Mary Sue-ish but it's actually handled quite well and never makes Lucy boring or overpowered as many like to complain of characters with special traits like this.  The training here accounts for a lot and there was never a scene when I saw Lucy engage with a vampire that I didn't feel like she might just lose and lose badly.

The action is awesome.
It's fast paced, grounded, clever, and very descriptive.  No detail was missed here and the environment was used really well in all scenes.  Each fight feels very distinct because of this.  Because of my slight sexism I hadn't expected this from a female writer.  That was only a partial joke by the way and yes, I give you permission to hate me.

I said so much already that I feel the need to wrap this up.  So nothing is perfect and that brings me to...

What I didn't like.
The first few chapters felt rushed, specifically a big part of chapter 1 and some parts of chapter 2.  There was a big wall of info on Lucy's past on the second and third page at a moment when I couldn't care less about who Lucy was.  There's also a huge mistake that chapter 2 Lucy makes that the Lucy I've come to know didn't seem like she would have made but this I can forgive since the thought of love makes us all do crazy things.

Only one other small thing bothered me and it's so trivial that it doesn't really matter.  It's the retractable fangs.  I'm bothered by these, not because they exist but because they weren't given a contemporary scientific explanation like everything else.  I'll admit that there's a huge chance that I might've glossed over it but it seems strange that it's just part of the package like the rest since this vampirism isn't like 'normal' vampirism.  It just feels like a genre holdover but you know what?  How freaking' weird would a vampire with flat teeth be?  Answer: really freaking weird!  So I'll wrap this up by saying some questions don't need to be answered and some traditions must never die.

Now here's that summary of points that I know the abridgers like so well.

The Good
+Science Fiction Edge
+Smart Ideas
+Witty Dialogue
+Sexy Moments
+Lucy is Likeable and Competent
+Cast is Likeable, Funny, Tough, and Complex
+It's Fun Getting to Know Everyone
+Author Has the Courage to Talk About a Few Social Issues
+The Structure of the Organization is Clever and Interesting
+Dress Up Stuff is Cool, Fun, and Makes Sense

The Bad
-First Chapter Seems Rushed as a Lot of Info is Quickly Given on Lucy
-The Lucy I've Come to Know Doesn't Seem Like She'd Make the Same Stupid Mistakes That She Did With Tim at the Beginning

The Trivial
-Unexplained Retractable Fangs

Find it at

Author's Blog:

Check out my review of the book's sequel: Blackbeard's Children

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