Thursday, February 3, 2011

Book review: Rereading Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite

"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" (-from the back of the paperback).

Backstory:

When I was a teenager I went through a vampire phase. Not the Twilight kind of vampires, who seem rather boring to me, but vampires who were evil and spent their time killing and having sex. Sometimes they did contemplate their (evil) existence as well, and pondered about how hard/cool it is to be a creature of the night.

I went through quite a number of books dealing with vampires, including Anne Rice's vampire collection I just couldn't get enough off. One of the vampire themed books I picked up during that time was Lost Souls (1992) by Poppy Z. Brite.


Content & Opinions:

This book was so much more than the the vampire stories I had read before and it totally blew me away. The story had lots of vampires, sex, killing and other pointless violence. Or more precisely, it was about darkness and things that go bumb in the night, just like any good horror story.

Yet at the same time, it was a coming of age story, about not fitting in and trying to find your place in the world. It was about the power of friendship, about boundaries or lack of those, about unrequired love and so much more. Well, that's what I thought as a teenager anyway. I devoured this book in one sitting, and I reread it many times over the years that followed.

Now that almost 2 decades have past, I decided it was time I reread Lost Souls and see if it was still as great as I remembered it to be, or if I had become old and cynical. I guess both turned out to be true.

Lost Souls is a really good book. It is well written, fast paced, and draws you into this world that looks like your every day world, but is yet totally different. I love the story it tells, but at the same time it is a story that no longer appeals to me. At least, not the way it did when I was a teen.

In short, Nothing is a teenager who has never really fit in anywhere. Not at home with his adopted parents, not with the friends he hangs out with. He has always felt like he was different and he dreams of finding his real family and to have a place to belong in the world. He also really, really enjoys blood and anything to do with it, but he is not sure what this means.

One night he decides to run away to New Orleans and try to find his real parents. By accident or because of fate, he ends up finding out exactly who he is and where he belongs...



Besides Nothing's story, which is one filled with sex, blood, violence and tears, there are also other stories being told parallel to this one. These different stories all come together when the story is about to come to a close.

One of those stories is about the special friendship between Ghost and Steve, two characters that I really loved the first time around. These guys are so different, yet they have this great bond. I still loved the scene where they kiss, and just like 15 years ago, I still don't know what it did or didn't mean. I still like their combo, and just like when I was a teen I identified more with Ghost and thought Steve was quite a jerk.

Another thing I still love about this book (and about other books by Brite), is how she makes New Orleans to be out to be this magical, ghostly, extraordinary city. When I was a teen I thought it was the coolest city ever. Having since been there, I feel it is pretty great, but it doesn't compare to how it is described in this book.

Most of the (male) characters in this book, seem to love (or at least have sex) pretty indiscriminately, which apart from a few scenes at the beginning of the novel referring to bisexuality, is presented rather matter of factly and the topic isn't really addressed further. 

Besides the storyline, and the feel of the book, I also love how it is written. Like I said, it's really fast based and it also makes you feel like you are there in the moment, experiencing the same things the characters are. In addition, pretty gruesome stuff happens, but yet this book is so much more than that.

"Nothing held Laine close and drank his life, lost in the slowing pulse, in the taste of blood and salt. He never realized that most of the tears he tasted were his own." (-page 161)

Conclusion:

Lost Souls did no longer hold the same meaning, the same importance or the same excitement it did the first time around. Still, I thought it was a really good book, and a great horror/coming of age story worthy to be read.

This book is not for everyone. But, if you enjoy a good vampire/horror story, if you are a teen or like YAL, if a little bit of gore doesn't put you off, this might be the book for you.

This book was reviewed as part of the LGBT reading challenge 2011 and the GLBT 2011 challenge.

3 comments:

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Sounds great. I've been wanting to read something by Brite for awhile now.

-Lauren

Ryan G said...

I'm a big fan of Poppy Z. Brite and like you this was the first book of her's I read. I read it in HS but haven't read it in a while. My favorite book of her's though is, Drawing Blood.

Natazzz said...

Brite is a great writer,and I would recommend any of her books.

Ryan, Drawing blood is also a very good book, but it didn't have the same impact on me as Lost Souls did.

I also like her more recent books, where she no longer writes about horror, but about cooking in restaurants.