Book Review: Late Bite
ashley | I’ve long since tired of the vampire craze, but I’m a sucker (get it!) for a witty pitch and clever concepts, so when John Matsui reached out to us with his book Late Bite, I couldn’t resist. Not to mention it’s based in my city Toronto – represent! #the6ix
There are a lot of things I loved about this book, things that crushed my presumptions and brought new life to an otherwise dead (or undead?) topic. First off, I was surprised that the narrator was not the vampire himself. He is definitely the star of the book, but it’s told from the point of view of his lawyer-turned-agent, Al, which adds a different perspective and creates a bigger picture.
The second pleasantly unexpected surprise was the vampire himself, Drogul. Or his origins, anyway. Matsui takes his own approach to the vampire lore and pulls from different sources to create a man – not a creature – who evolved through natural selection to feed on blood. I loved how he was humanized, despite his ghastly creature-like appearance, and how he was turned into a celebrity instead of a monster. It was really interesting delving into these details, Matsui had them all very thought out and really strongly tied together.
I also liked that the story started after Drogul was established as a celebrity and looks back on the trial and relives that time, as opposed to just going through it with us in real time. It could have ruined the trial itself, made things seem redundant and repetitive when you already knew the outcome, but it actually just puts a nice alternate view on the story. I mean, the concept of an arrested vampire not being jailed after a trial seems unlikely, you still want to read through the events that lead to that happening.
The entire structure adds to the entertainment value and that’s what this is, it’s pure entertainment. It’s kind of ridiculous, but at the same time, kind of brilliant. The copy is riddled with thinly disguised references to Toronto news outlets, Toronto landmarks and even an iconic Toronto Mayor who makes just as much of a joke of this trial as he did our city during his run. But every time I turned a page, there was another little tidbit that made me chuckle. Maybe it’s because the Toronto thing hits closer to home for me, but the general tone and overall feeling of this whole book is very intelligent and very satirical.
But this isn’t just a clever book about a vampire; it also takes a long hard look at Canadian laws and our justice system. While it differs from our American neighbours, the general idea of approaching a vampire on trial can be appreciated by us all. And how the trial plays out is one interesting read. Dragul’s defense is solid, the empathy he provokes is real, and it’s the situations of relating to a killer, but with such a strange twist to it. This portion was really well put together, there were strong arguments on both sides and solid defences to counteract great points. I had a lot of fun reading through this portion. It was all so black and white… with a bit of red mixed in.
I have to admit that I noticed my interest levels dropped a bit once the trial was over. The story isn’t done, there’s still people being murdered and they need to get to the bottom of it, but it’s almost as if the tone of the book changed slightly as we launched into this part of the story. The writing was still strong, but it held a much more serious tone (obviously, murder) that kind of threw me off the flow from the rest of the book.
And then it ended. With an ending that definitely picked everything back up for me again. Honestly, this book surprised me a lot. It was a new twist on the vampire story, it was cleverly written and a lot more charming than I ever would have expected. I can’t wait to read Matsui’s next book, now that I know to expect the unexpected.
September 20, 2014