Long before the New Moon saga had created a cult of adolescent girls going all weak-kneed over the possibility of receiving a hickey from an un-dead heartthrob, Christopher Moore had begun recounting the misadventures of vampires on the West Coast in Blood Sucking Fiends. Set in the far more exotic environs of San Francisco (Washington's overcast and rainy weather may sound like atmosphere to some, but to me it just sounds cold and damp) it, along with its sequel You Suck, recounted the story of how the put-upon Jody became a vampire, and how she in turn converted her boyfriend, wannabe writer Thomas C. Flood.
Having a sensitivity to the UV rays of sunlight that not even the toughest sunblock will cope with, Jody had initially taken advantage of Thomas working the night shift stocking shelves at a local grocery store and having his days free. This allowed him to run errands for her and take care of all that stuff that can only happen during the sunlight hours. So with Thomas becoming a vampire they find themselves in need of somebody to pick up the slack for them. By the end of You Suck they had settled on a young Goth girl, Abby Normal (Day Slave name Allison) to handle such tedious tasks as finding them accommodation and keeping them under wraps during the day. What they hadn't probably counted on was Abby and her bio-tech boyfriend Steve dipping them in bronze while dead to the world in order to make sure they didn't split up and ruin Abby's romantic vision of the two vampires living an eternity of loving bliss with her as their worshipful minion.
Which is where we pick up the story in the third book of Moore's vampire triptych, Bite Me, hitting the streets March 23, 2010 courtesy of HarperCollins Canada through its William Morrow imprint. In case anybody's missed the first two books, our erstwhile narrator fills us in on the details in her own inimitable style — an extended text message on speed, coloured with sexual innuendo and rampant sarcasm through which we get periodic glimpses of the person hiding behind the pounds of makeup, fishnet stockings, and dyed hair. One of the key points of her summation is how a very large hairless cat named Chet has become a vampire and has now set out on a rampage through the city.
Now Steve has been using his science geekdom, to quote Abby, to come up with a way of reversing what happens to a person's blood when they are "turned", or become a vampire. This becomes awfully key when it's discovered that third generation vampires — those turned by a vampire who were turned by the dude who bit Jody —don't have the longest shelf life without some rather intensive blood transfusions from the original dude. Jody will be okay, but anybody she has turned, or anybody turned by ingesting the blood of somebody she's turned, won't be around longer than a month. It means Thomas could go at any time, as could Abby. Oh yes, Abby granted herself her fondest wish by ingesting the blood of some rats Steve had turned in order to test his serum.
Of course there's still the rather large matter of Chet as well, and the fact that he's not only drinking his way through the homeless population of San Francisco, but is also turning every stray cat he comes across. Chet seems to have also absorbed quite a few of the attributes of the elder vampire, the same one who turned Jody, and has not only grown in size to about 80 pounds, but has developed the ability to reason and think. He also has learned the very valuable trick of turning to mist —not something most novice vampires are able to do — and somehow or other also passed on this talent to felines he turns. Which means that come sundown that patch of mist drifting towards you down a San Francisco street could very well materialize in front of you as a hundred vampire cats looking to suck you dry.
Thankfully help is sort of on the way in the shape of three vampires who've been traveling the world cleaning up the messes left behind by the elder vampire who turned Jody. Unfortunately their idea of cleaning up also means eliminating any witnesses, which means not only Chet and his brood are in danger, but so are Jody, Thomas, Abby, Steve, and everybody who has had any contact with vampiric activity in San Francisco recently. That includes Thomas' fellow shelf stockers at the grocery store —a group of stoners referred to collectively as the Animals — and the two cops, Rivera and Cavuto, who helped take down the original vampire.
To be honest I worried that Moore was going to this particular vein one time too often writing another sequel to Blood Sucking Fiends, as You Suck had already begun showing signs of thinning blood. However he's managed to inject some new life into the series through some ingenious plot twists and the introduction of a couple of new characters. He also, thankfully, splits the narration duties up amongst his characters, for at times I wanted to reach into the pages and grab Abby Normal by her throat to shut her up. If I heard one more conversation recounted as "Like then he was all" and "Like then I was" and "Like 'kay?" there's a good chance I wouldn't have finished the book. Some people might find it endearing or funny, but I thought it was just annoying to a point where it went beyond interesting characterization.
However Moore is a good enough writer that he pushes it to the limit but not further and doesn't allow his book to descend to the depths of being a one-note joke. In fact by the end the joking has been relegated to the back burner, as there's not only the showdown with the vampire clean-up crew to deal with, but decisions have to be reached on everybody's part. Here again Moore shows his skill as an author through his ability to quickly switch tones. One moment we're in the middle of what can best be described as a horror farce and the next a gentle and genuinely touching story about the choices we make and the reasons we make them. Even more impressive is the way he is able to do this so that the transition from one to the other feels like the most natural thing in the world.
Vampires are all the rage right now among the teenage girl set with them swooning over handsome, pale-skinned heartthrobs and dreaming of eternal love. Bite Me provides a nice antidote to the sickeningly sweet world of paranormal romance that's being peddled by the trash merchants these days. Even if slightly over the top at times, Moore is a refreshing dose of the absurd in a world which has started to take itself and fantasy far too seriously.