Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Think Galactic- My Soul to Keep

For the October meeting of Think Galactic, we discussed "My Soul to Keep" (1997) by Tananarive Due.

The novel is pitched as a vampire story (though we had some debate about that), and reads as kind of a thriller/relationship drama. Discussion points and possible spoilers below!
  • So yeah, we debated whether or not this is a "vampire" novel. It's blurbed that way, and definitely involves blood-based immortality, which satisfied some our vampire standards. The lack of other vampire traits--feeding, undead-ness, vampiric strengths/weaknesses beyond immortality--left some of us unconvinced that's an accurate characterization, and it reminded me more of Highlander without the pesky decapitation business, which apparently wouldn't work anyway in this universe. Huh.
  • Much foreshadow! So much foreshadowing.
  • We wondered at the real extent of abusiveness in David & Jessica's relationship. It's a little hard to tell how far his possessiveness/manipulation goes, due to POV issues.
  • Compared this (and drastically preferred this) to Somtow's "Vampire Junction", last October's spooky read.
  • We noted that using David for roughly half the viewpoint sections did interesting things to the perception and effects of the book--took away what could otherwise have been more classically horror elements, made them into a different kind of tension as we see why he makes those choices.
  • We dug Teacake, the immortal cat, and suspect that's a Zora Neale Hurston ref. I also find myself curious about that immortal lizard who just wanders off.
  • We liked the bits of jazz and black culture woven in, including the Chicago sections.
  • Much heteronormativity here! Such heteronormativity.
  • We talked for a bit about different kinds of feminism here, got off on a nice segue about Adichie and her quotes in BeyoncĂ©'s song "Flawless" (and her reaction to it).
  • Pretty sure this doesn't pass the Bechdel test, despite the primarily female cast--when women talk to each other here, seems like they're always talking about David.
  • We liked the historical flashbacks from David, and particularly how they connect the history of slavery-based violence to his present-day mindset. It also adds this interesting angle to the horror--David literally haunted by his past as both perpetrator and victim of racial violence.
  • Lots of talk about the Christianity here, how seriously to take the immortal origin in Christ's blood, how to square the faith-heavy characters with the supernatural elements. Inevitable Jesus as "the Master" and the Master from Buffy blasphemies committed.
  • A couple of us are also currently (or permanently) in DS9 periods, so David & Jessica's daughter Kira had us thinking of a certain religious character.
  • Some talk about the history of religious artifacts, including the Basilica of the Holy Blood (which sounds a bit similar to the immortal trick here), which is, incidentally, featured in "In Bruges". Also mentioned that the Chicago Art Institute has a couple reliquaries. Also, must plug: really good story about modern, war-on-terror based relics in Mieville's collection "Three Moments of an Explosion" (and, further aside, City Lit's short story book club is discussing that collection next month).
  • We also talked abut Due as an author--her career similarities to Jessica (as a journalist in Miami), her friendship with Octavia Butler, her memoir with her mother about the Civil Rights Movement, and the excellence of her twitter feed.
Good discussion! I think it's safe to say this was just a little outside of our collective preference-zone for reading, but pretty good nonetheless. Next time, rounding out our spooky-season selection, we'll be reading Victor LaValle's "The Ballad of Black Tom", with Lovecraft's "The Horror of Red Hook" suggested as bonus reading. Keep up with Think Galactic on their website, Facebook, and Goodreads.

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