TITLE: LOST SOULS
AUTHOR: POPPY Z BRITE
PUBLISHER: PENGUIN BOOKS
GENRE: HORROR FICTION
COVER TYPE: PAPER BACK
On a recent visit to the library I decided I wanted to read something a big lighter for a change and found myself in the horror section. The name Poppy Z Brite rang a familiar chord. Lost Souls sounded like a pretty decent spin on that staple creature of horror fiction – vampires. I still haven’t worked out why the author’s name is familiar.
BLURB FROM THE BACK COVER
In the French Quarter of New Orleans the Mardi Gras revellers concealed a group of pleasure seekers who preferred to wear black. For Zillah, Molochai and Twig the party had been going on for centuries, fuelled by sexual frenzy, green Chartreuse and a cocktail of vodka and innocent blood.
Nothing was born in horror and brought up in suburban Maryland. Even before he ran away to find his true home, he suspected he was different from other teenagers. And when he had his first taste of human blood he knew he was right.
Ghost was the visionary singer of band ‘Lost Souls?’ When Nothing was drawn into Zillah’s fatal circle, Ghost had to decide whether he should try to save him from himself – or abandon him to his bloody birth right.
THE OPENING LINE
In the spring, families, in the suburbs of New Orleans – Metairie, Jefferson, and Lafayette – hang wreaths on their front doors.
I enjoyed Lost Souls. Lost Souls is exactly what it says on the tin – low brow horror fiction that offers a good but not completely original spin on vampire mythology. Brite is a competent writer. I was enchanted by the vision of New Orleans she created.
I think Lost Souls is the perfect title for the novel.
Brite offers a slightly different twist to vampire mythology, that staple creature of horror fiction. Vampire fiction tends to revolve around the idea that vampires turn humans by drinking their blood and making the hapless human drink their blood in turn (or siring as Buffy. Everyone’s favourite vampire slayer would say). In the world of Lost Souls, vampires are born not made. Male vampires can impregnate a human female at the moment of intercourse. Female vampires can fall pregnant at the moment of intercourse with vampire and human partners. The babies are born by eating their way out of the womb. The mythology Brite offers in Lost Souls reminds me of a brilliant vampire novel I read in my teens, Sins of the Blood by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I liked Brite’s take on a genre that’s been done to death.
I really enjoyed that fact that Lost Souls is set in New Orleans. New Orleans has featured in many horror films and works of fiction and is a city, in my mind at least, that goes hand and hand with the weird, twisted, macabre. I t6hought it was the perfect setting for Lost Souls. Brite did a good bring at bringing the unique city to dark and twisted life. I got a real sense of place with Lost Souls.
Lost Souls is populated by weird, bright and wonderful characters. The vampire trio, Zillah, Molochai and Twig are everything predators should be. They just ooze ‘wrongness’. Christian, another vampire, is much older (I think) and sort of counter balances them. I thought Nothing was a very strong character. He was Zillah’, unknown at first, son, created when Zillah impregnated a human girl who died giving birth. He’s a half vampire. He was raised by foster parents under the name Jason but he always referred to himself by the name his mother gave him during her pregnancy. Brite captures his grief, rage and sense of isolation very well. Nothing always knew he was wrong, or different or something. When he meets Zillah and co. you can almost hear the click. I thought Ghost and Steve were great characters as well. Ghost has some sort of psychic powers and dreams about Nothing before their paths cross. Steve is his polar opposite and is tortured when his ex-girlfriend whom he almost beat to death falls pregnant to Zillah. I thought all the characters in Lost Souls were very well written. Even little Jessy, Nothing’s fifteen year old mother who dies giving birth to him.
Brite opens Lost Souls in an unforgettable way. Zillah and co. turn up at a bar Christian owns where Jessy is hanging out. She’s a vampire groupie. The five of them (Zillah, Molochai, Twig and Jessy) have themselves a little orgy. Jessy falls pregnant and Christian takes care of her when Zillah and his cohorts vanish into the darkness. Jessy dies giving birth. This prologue only lasts a few pages and leaves you no choice but to read on.
There are some great scenes in Lost Souls. The prologue blew me away. Fifteen years later Jessy’s father turns up at Christian’s bar looking for his daughter. He knew Jessy was a vampire groupie and works out what Christian is when he sees him with a young boy in the woods. I found his grief a little heart-breaking. He attacks Christian and almost kills him. It was very sad near the end of the novel when he was killed by Zillah and his cronies. Steve’s ex has sex with Zillah in the back of a van, as you and falls pregnant. She believes Zillah is her true love and sets out to find him so he can love her and the baby. I found her delusions hilarious for some reason. I guess I have a twisted side.
The only real issue I had with Lost Souls is the amount of sex in it. I am far from a prude but neither am I a nymphomaniac. The sex scenes in Lost Souls were excessive and started to get pointless before I was halfway through. Zillah, Molochai and Twig can’t seem to keep their hands off themselves or anyone nearby for more than five minutes at a time. Nothing and his friends get stoned and have orgies regularly before he runs away. Nothing, Zillah, Molochai and Twig are at it like rabbits from the moment they meet. Even when Zillah and Nothing find out their father and son they still can’t keep their hands off each other. It all becomes a little tedious. This had a negative impact on my enjoyment of Lost Souls.
Brite does a pretty decent job of sprucing up vampire mythology in Lost Souls. The setting in New Orleans is perfect. Brite offers us some interesting if twisted and disturbing characters. The endless sex scenes and orgies become a bit redundant.