Sex, blood and rock ‘n’ roll

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Lost Souls By (author) Poppy Z. BriteAbove a dingy bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans, a vampire child is born, killing his mother as he fights his way out of her womb. Unaware of the devastation he has caused, that same child, called Nothing, is brought up by non-vampire parents. By the time he is 15, however, he knows that something is missing from his life. He leaves home, aiming to find his favourite group, Lost Souls, to see if they can help him find his way. He is picked up by a strange group of people, the beautiful Zillah, Molochai and Twig, who appear to live life by partying hard. Before long, it becomes clear that Zillah and Nothing have a strong bond. But is it a healthy one? And can his friends Ghost and Christian help him to see the truth before it is too late?

Much as I love horror films, I rarely read horror in literature and, apart from the odd Anne Rice book, I have read little in the way of vampire literature. Nevertheless, trying out new genres is always a challenge and I have to admit that, with the exception of one aspect of this book, it is a very intriguing story, full of vampirism, mind-reading and other types of magic.  However, it may not be appropriate for teenagers who are into Twilight – there is a lot of very descriptive sex throughout the book. If it were a film, it would certainly be an 18.

I loved all the characters. Although the whole story revolves around Nothing, he is one of the less colourful characters, being young, relatively innocent and unsure of his role in the world. Nevertheless, I had a certain amount of respect for his wanting to flee a life that made him so unhappy, and he definitely inspired a lot of sympathy in me. Zillah, Molochai and Twig are the complete opposite of Nothing. They are party animals, with little sympathy for anyone or anything outside their world. They strip people of their blood, usually choosing teenage boys or girls, and are just concerned with their next fix. Nevertheless, they are very striking as characters – Zillah’s beguiling green eyes and psychopathic tendencies may not be likeable, but they are certainly intriguing.

Ghost and Christian are also wonderful characters. Ghost is rather strange, yet intriguing. The lead singer of Lost Souls, and best friend to the other member of the band, Steve, he is able to read minds and has strange visions. Constantly terrified that something awful will happen to Steve, he spends nearly all his time trying to keep him safe, but also has time to show concern for Nothing and Steve’s ex-girlfriend. Christian is another vampire, but unlike Zillah et al, he is much more mature in his behaviour, only killing when he absolutely has to. Steve is probalby the most normal character in the book, although he has a violent temper and tends to act on impulse. Characterisation is most certainly Poppy Z Brite’s strong point – each and every one of them is beautifully described and, despite the number of characters, by the end of the book, I really felt as though I knew all of them.

‘Lost Souls‘ was an excellent read and one that has persuaded me I need to catch up on some of the author’s other books.”

The story is an excellent one. It is told from the point of view of a number of characters, primarily Christian, Nothing and Steve and Ghost, and at the beginning, it is hard to understand quite what they all have in common. However, the story slowly reveals how they all fit together and, by a third of the way through the book, I was hooked. And I loved the idea of vampires living unnoticed amongst ordinary people. Zillah et al and Christian may have dressed and behaved strangely, but they were still able to lead the lives of their choosing with little outside interference. This could have come across as childish, but the way Brite tells the story, it is actually not and I was left feeling as if I’d read a worthwhile piece of literature.

I adored the way that the author describes the French Quarter of New Orleans. It is a place I’ve always wanted to visit, and do even more now. It isn’t exactly described as it would be in a travel book – the streets are dark and narrow and alcohol and blood seems to be the main source of sustenance. However, Brite makes it sound fresh and intriguing despite all this – no mean feat when it is such a dark story. Brite’s attention to detail in describing other settings throughout the course of the book is brilliant too, if a little disgusting at times (the description of the mattress that Zillah et al sleep on is truly repulsive) and it really brings the book alive.

My only concern with the book is the amount of sex and how graphic it is. In the first two thirds of the book, there is at least one sex scene in every chapter. Now, I am no prude; in fact, I like reading about sex, but a couple of descriptions in any one book is enough for me. If I want more, I’ll read Emanuelle or some other porn literature. It should also be noted that the sex is rarely boy meets girl and falls in love type sex. It is largely homosexual, with the odd bit of incest and rape thrown in, and I’ve no doubt that it could offend some. And parents might be concerned about their teenagers reading this sort of book, especially when there is no warning on the cover. Personally though, I’d have loved it as a teenager!

‘Lost Souls‘ was an excellent read and one that has persuaded me I need to catch up on some of the author’s other books. I would have preferred a little less sex, but that can largely be forgiven because the story is so good. I do think, however, that teenagers, certainly under the age of 15, should probably be kept away from it, so parents need to be aware of the content.

Published by Penguin Books, it has 368 pages.

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Lost Souls
by Poppy Z. Brite

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Written by sunmeilan

My background is varied. I studied Chinese at Durham University in the UK, Renmin University in Beijing and Nanjing University. I then lived in China for many years, before returning to the UK to study criminology at the London School of Economics, from where I have a Masters. I have published articles on drug treatment and the criminal justice system. Although I have now left this field, I do enjoy crime fiction and reviewing books from this genre. I also have a strong interest in Chinese modern fiction.

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