Sunday, November 19, 2017

Think Galactic- Certain Dark Things

For the October meeting of Think Galactic, we discussed Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

We've had kind of mixed results for our "spooky October reads" for the last few years, and, while light, this novel about warring vampire clans in Mexico City was a fun read. Brief notes and possible spoilers below:

  • Generally agreed to be an easy read, "cotton/vampire candy".
  • Comparisons made to the television show Kindred: The Embraced, which was itself based on White Wolf's Vampire: The Masquerade, which our local White Wolf expert elaborated on for us (the development of Gothic Punk, the relation to the role-playing game genre). Certain Dark Things feels a little derivative in comparison.
  • We liked the Mexico City setting, and I noted that it felt considerably more fleshed-out than in Signal to Noise (which CNSC just discussed).
  • Weren't quite sure what to make of vampires replacing drug gangs.
  • Some discussion of the telepathy/mind-control mechanics; compared to IT-blockage in A Wrinkle in Time.
  • A few us ran into some disbelief-suspension fails at a few points.
  • We were most intrigued by the consent issues, the question of what you'll do for somebody.
  • We thought Bernadino was a total cop-out, deus ex machina. Pretty bad-ass, though.
  • Comparisons!
    • Only Lovers Left Alive and Interview with a Vampire.
    • Butler's Fledgling: how food source interacts with vampires, consent issues.
    • My Soul to Keep's failure to draw us in.
  • We liked Ana, the cop, and her chapters' study of various kinds of inequality. We thought the breaks in her case seemed realistic, which is actually kind of rare. While her ending maybe fed into the "pointlessness of violence in Mexico City" idea, we were pretty nonplussed by the way she stops being an active agent abruptly.
  • We noted a (not terrible) YA-ishness to the novel.
  • At this point we're finding the "not eating human friend" a little overdone.
  • On the whole, we kept waiting for plot twists that never quite arrived.
  • We kind of liked the "Eurotrash Necros".
  • "Vampires don't sleep with humans", and although the rule is broken here we kind of liked that it seems to be taken seriously.
  • We liked the research done on local traditions of blood-suckers and otherwise vampiric figures; would have liked to see more in the main novel, with a few of us commenting that the appendix was one of the better parts of the book.
  • Kind of interesting that there's no religious component.
  • We noted a ton of plot/action level problems: combat scenes don't scan well, and the ending is way too fast and pat.
  • We wanted to know more about the in-world tradition of vampire comic books; Domingo's whole thing of being uneducated but kind of knowing things because of comics was half-sketched out.
  • We wanted to see more about how vampires are "out" in the world, which we only get hints of here. Comparisons made to True Blood's (initial) interest in that as an LGBT metaphor, and the "out" Harmony bits in Buffy Season 8 (discussed last year).
  • We're always interested in human/vampire sexuality questions, and we really liked the line "we are our hunger", but didn't really see it explored too much here. Again compared to Fledgling, and also recommended Indrapramit Das's The Devourers in that vein.
  • Talked for a bit about class war theories of vampires, werewolves, and zombies (thought of Lipscomb's lecture at Worldcon last year).
  • Atl's regrowing hand sent us off on a weird/evil hand tangent, including The Fifth Element, Idle Hands, Dr. Who's "Hand of Fear", and the infamous Steven Universe "Cat Fingers" episode.
  • "Vampires built the pyramids" thing set off my "fictional ancient aliens getting credit for actual human achievements" alarm.

Overall consensus: light, but popcornily enjoyable, and that's okay. Keep up with Think Galactic on their website and Facebook group.

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