Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Mike Sedgwick: My Sword Hand Is Singing

More vampires. Maybe it's just that I'm presently making fun of them, but they do seem to be everywhere at the moment. Sedgwick's big idea is to write a novel about vampires as they used to be in european myth and legend, rather than as they've come to be in a post-Anne Rice world.

What that seems to mean is an interesting enough gothic horror novel filled with scary things that are more like zombies than anything, and certainly aren't going to be attending high school at any point in the near future. It's an interesting take on something that is being done to death everywhere else, though I can't help wondering if Sedgwick, in getting rid of the modern, sexy, ever so confident things that we're used to, hasn't gotten rid of the main thing that makes this stuff so readable.

Except of course that it's not actually about the vampires. This is literature, apparently, so the novel is presumably as much about the relationship between the woodcutter son and his father, the superstitious villagers and their rituals, and the sudden influx of travellers, as it is about the supernatural. There are certainly hints of that being the case, particularly with the father-son dynamic, though I suspect the strands aren't as fully developed as they could be. To a certain extent, it feels like Sedgwick has got hold of a great idea, and then has had little idea what to do around it, resulting in emphasis in odd places. What would seem like an important climactic point for the book, with everyone heading back into town to deal with the things, is dealt with in a fairly perfunctory manner, while the relationship between the woodcutter and Agnes, who he thinks he loves, is dealt with equally briefly.

The saving grace here is Sedgwick's writing. He has a knack for the brooding, dark and sinister, drawing it out of the ordinary in inventive ways. Equally, by working with slightly old fashioned vampires he's found a way of making them feel fresh again, and thus actually frightening. For that alone, it might be worth reading.

1 comment:

Lisa Damian said...

Sounds like an interesting recommendation. I'll have to check it out. I love a good gothic horror novel.