30 Days of Night (Rumors of the Undead)
by Steve Niles
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
30 Days of Night: Rumors of the Undead / 978-0-7434-9651-3
"Rumors of the Undead" takes place after the '30 days of night' in Barrow, Alaska, where nearly the entire population of an isolated arctic town is massacred by vampires under an extended cover of darkness. Rather than being a direct sequel, however, "Rumors" follows in the footsteps of an FBI agent assigned to keep an eye on Stella Olemaun, one of the few survivors of that massacre, and author of a tell-all vampire expose book.
The basic problem with "Rumors" is that it suffers heavily from trying to make the Masquerade work - it wants to have an X-Files world where vampires exist but no one is willing to believe what is right in front of their eyes. As such, FBI Special Agent Andy Gray is not assigned to watch Stella Olemaun because she might be murdered by vampires for exposing them, but rather because she's been buying up some odd weapons lately and is therefore obviously a terrorist.
About 50 seconds into the 'investigation' - indeed, before the book even starts - Andy's partner gets himself turned into a vampire (after 400 pages, you still will not know how, when, or why), and goes on a killing rampage to frame Andy for the deaths of everyone he's ever met. Being that this is the fictional, X-Files version of the FBI, it comes out that the FBI *knows* about vampires, but is vested in covering them up at all costs, so they cheerfully put Andy on the Most Wanted list and he prudently decides to go on the lam with the end-goal of finding undeniable proof of vampires and warning the world.
It's not a terrible set-up, but the book does so much wrong with it that it loses its sting. We're told early on that Stella (who we never see directly in this novel) was furious at having her vampire expose labeled as 'fiction'. A terrified publishing executive confides to Andy that a mysterious 'They' (the vampires? the FBI?) 'made' them publish the book under the watered-down 'fiction' label, but that doesn't make *any* sense because neither the FBI nor the vampires want the book to exist at all, so why didn't 'They' force the publisher to not touch the book at all? For that matter, if vampires are such a powerful force that they can threaten publishing companies, then I have to venture to say that that particular cat is out of the bag.
Other issues with the Masquerade problem is that all the 20+ S.W.A.T. members who saw a vampire take multiple bullets to the chest have to be convinced that they didn't *really* see him get up afterward, the doctors who confirmed that a lack of a pulse wasn't preventing the suspect from walking and talking have to be silenced, the blood samples have to be gotten rid of, and several incriminating videos have to be deleted. All this can be swept under the FBI rug, but why? Even more ridiculous is when we find out that not only does Stella Olemaun have in her possession a an unreleased *video recording* from the 30 days of night, but when she and her husband become vampiric guardian angels of Barrow (don't ask - this isn't explained at all), despite the fact that *they are vampires*, they still can't figure out how to provide proof to the outside world that vampires exist - it never occurs to anyone to go on CNN and offer to let the anchor chop off a few bits so that they can miraculously grow back for the viewing public to see.
Even without the Fridge Logic, "Rumors" just comes off as very mediocre. It's a decent "man on the lam" story of a man out for vengeance, but the revenge motive is slightly dampened when the book hammers home repeatedly what a terrible husband, father, and human being Andy really is - not so much an anti-hero as an apathetic stand-in for one. The ancillary characters in this book are too many to count, and their lives and deaths are all so tangential to the revenge story that the focus of the book starts to become more about the FBI cover-up which is painfully under-motivated and forced. Maybe vampires just work better in Barrow, Alaska than in Los Angeles, California.
~ Ana Mardoll
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