Vampire Weekend: A Novel

Image of Vampire Weekend: A Novel
Release Date: 
January 31, 2023
Reviewed by: 

“a different vampire story, one that reveals more than a little poignancy as it strips away the gothic glamor and shows that vampires are merely people in a changed form . . .”

Vampire Louise Chao’s life is nothing like her cinematic counterpart’s, with no enhanced senses, no money, nobility, or extra sex appeal. Instead, she works as a night janitor in a hospital blood bank, auditions to be a guitarist in a punk rock band, and lives in the house her Aunt Laura left her, with her corgi, Lola.

“Vampires are super-boring. Most of us worried about balancing night jobs (they’re not that easy to find) and getting weekly blood needs met without biting people (really not as common as popular culture would have you believe) rather than wielding uncanny powers.”

She does drink blood to survive, but lately, there’s also a problem, because blood, even that disposed of from blood banks, is in short supply. So scarce that someone has begun attacking people and draining them.

Having lost her latest gig because of an ill-timed moment for her sensitivity to garlic to crop up, the lack of a blood supply is paramount to Louise because she’s also one of those volunteering to deliver the sustenance to where it’s dispensed to her fellow vampires.

Eric, leader of their vampire community, appears unworried by this scarcity, telling everyone he has plans. What those plans are, he won’t say—yet—except that it involves everyone, and will lead to an easing of their Undead lives as they currently know them, he promises.

“‘You’ve based your careers—your time—around getting food. What if you didn’t need to build your life that way?’ The stool creaked as Eric leaned forward, his voice a near-whisper as if the weight of his words would be enough to connect them. ‘What would you choose to do then?’”

Soon, Louise has other worries. Twp strangers appear at her home, asking for Aunt Laura. When EJ Wu and his grandson, Ian, bring Ian’s mother to San Francisco for cancer treatment, EJ decides to break the decades-long estrangement with his aunt and visit, as a way to distract Ian from worry over his mother.

Louise doesn’t recognize EJ nor he, her, so she is startled to realize he’s her younger brother whom she hasn’t seen since leaving home over 40 years before. She doesn’t identify herself, except as a distant relative.

Louise and Ian bond over their love of music, making EJ happy to see his son momentarily diverted from his worry. When Ian’s mother is sent home because “there’s nothing to be done,” Laura convinces EJ to let Ian stay the weekend, hoping to further distract him by taking him to a rock concert.

Ian isn’t your usual 13 year old, however. Having been in Louise’s company for several days now, and noting a few idiosyncracies and contradictions, he puts two and two together and comes up with the correct answer, much to Louise’s dismay. He then makes the inevitable request: Turn my mother and save her life.

When Louise refuses, Ian does the only other thing he can think of: He goes in search of a vampire who will grant his request—with a frantic Louise following behind, trying to find the boy before the wrong Undead learn he’s discovered them.

“Ian is out in a city he didn’t know, looking for creatures he didn’t understand, in a community that prized secrecy . . .  and at least one of them has turned up the dial to attacking humans over the past few weeks.”

A desperate hunt follows, with a surprise ending no one—much less Louise—is expecting, as Ian’s wishes, Louise’s hopes, and Eric‘s plans converge at a secret club for vampires tucked away in the California forests.

While this is a story about vampires, don’t expect gnashing fangs, swirling capes, and the creaking of coffin lids—or gratuitous amounts of blood. Do expect listings of rock bands, and singers, and descriptions of riffs, chords, motifs, synths, lo-fi, postpunk, and more. Some readers may consider themselves “out of it” if they neither recognize or understand these descriptions. Suggestion: Simply go with the flow and enjoy the story.

Louise’s debunking of a vampire myth as an introduction to each chapter is a great lead-in to what follows, revealing the give-and-take between her and Ian, showing the division between a youngster and someone he thinks is a contemporary but is not, is breached by their mutual love of music as Louise nudges Ian down the musical path she loves.

Age dissimilarities aside, Vampire Weekend is a different vampire story, one that reveals more than a little poignancy as it strips away the gothic glamor and shows that vampires are merely people in a changed form, enjoying their Undead lives when they can and struggling with their sunset-to-sunrise problems as much as their human counterparts do.