30 Days of Night
by Tim Lebbon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
30 Days of Night (Movie Novelization) / 978-1-4165-4497-5
As a disclaimer, I have neither read the original graphic novel series on which this movie is based, nor have I seen the actual movie in question. But I love vampire stories and this book caught my eye with the interesting premise of an isolated arctic town besieged by vampires during an entire 30-day blackout period.
In many ways, this book does not disappoint. The suspense starts immediately, with a mysterious stranger drifting into town and wreaking minor acts of vandalism and property destruction that slowly escalate as the town becomes increasingly cut off from the outside world. And when the vampires finally do show up in mass numbers, they are everything a reader could hope for - palpably frightening, even to readers thoroughly glutted with vampire literature, as I no doubt am.
The author does a superb job of highlighting the vampire's natural strengths, as they creep silently over rooftops and lay in wait for their prey, oblivious to the cold - and the terror is heightened when the hunters frequently (and without warning) abandon silence and stealth and instead ransack random houses through to the very roof shingles, looking for survivors. Though the vampires are intelligent, there is no discernible pattern to their searches, which frightens the hiding humans further - they never know when they will be next. Can the vampires hear them? Smell them? Sense them? It's clear that at least one house contains "known" survivors, which the vampires are saving as a snack for later... are our own main characters similarly known and simply living on borrowed time? The result is truly quite terrifying and claustrophobic.
If I did have to criticize this book, it'd be that characters shouldn't be made stupid in order to advance the plot. I was pleasantly surprised that everyone was able to knuckle down and come to grips with vampires as a reality early on, only to be disappointed when one of the characters decides to decamp from their hiding place in order to try to rescue a young woman being used by bait by the vampires. They're watching her every move, so there is literally no chance to rescue her, and if her 'rescuer' is caught, he'll be tortured into revealing the location of the survivors, but no one has any objection to his leaving the hideout and possibly exposing them all. Maybe it's a small complaint, but that sort of thing just irks me. Add to that the astonishing number of people who are willing to shout, argue, and fight whilst 'hiding' and I start wishing, perhaps unfairly, that the sensible people would strike out on their own and leave the rest to their well-deserved fate.
The vampires, too, are rather poorly characterized here, and while this seems like a failing, it's hard to say whether the solution would have been *more* characterization or *less*. The lack of obvious characterization heightens the horror and terror - like the humans in the novel, we do not understand why the vampire behavior is so arbitrary and cruel. Their unpredictability and capriciousness makes them more alien, and more frightening, because they cannot be reasoned with, and their next move cannot be easily predicted. On the other hand, however, more characterization would be nice to explain why so much of their killing seems to be so inefficient - they seem, mostly, to be killing for fun, not for food. One suspects that the author split the difference and went for a little characterization covered with a lot of mystery, but the end result feels slightly unsatisfying.
There's a lot of Fridge Logic that accompanies pretty much any vampire book - notably here as "Do all the residents who left town for the 30 days *really* not call their friends and loved ones for the entire month, not even to check to see if the dog has been fed? Really??" - but that goes with the genre, and the important thing is to just not dwell on those logic flashes. All in all, I enjoyed the book immensely and it definitely got me through a long plane ride.
~ Ana Mardoll
View all my reviews