Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Day Soldiers" by Brandon Hale

If there was one thing I could definitively choose that has ruined horror for all time it would have to say it is Twilight. Not PG-13 boo scare found footage flicks or the endless stream of crappy remakes. Twilight, plain and simple. Why? It took two classic horror icons, vampires and werewolves, and turned them into pussified whiny emo bitches. Vampires sparkling in daylight? Werewolves who imprint themselves on unborn children? Who came up with that crap?! Sure tween girls ate it up, but I’m sure none of them are even remotely familiar with the origins of vampires or werewolves, let alone know that they were meant to be scary and inherently violent in nature.

Which brings me to a little book I downloaded for my Kindle - “Day Soldiers” by Brandon Hale. As I stated in my review of “Necromancer (Unspeakable Things: Book One)”, I was looking for some cheap eBooks to have on hand, and stumbled across a number of free and/or extremely cheap genre options. One of which was “Day Soldiers”. The synopsis sounded kind of cool and since it was 100% free I wasn’t about to be overly picky.

The story takes place in a world where humanity is at war with the combined forces of vampires and werewolves. Young Lily Baxter decides to stop living in fear of the creatures that live in the woods outside her small town, and with her friend Leo takes them out with extreme prejudice. Unfortunately this act rains destruction down upon the town and results in her and Leo being the only survivors. Afterwards they are inducted into the Day Soldiers, the human army holding the supernatural forces at bay. Trained to be an assassin, Lily vows to personally kill the werewolf that changed her life forever.

No, there is no hokey love triangle story at play here. Yes, the vampires suck blood, are allergic to sunlight and holy relics. Yes the werewolves work in packs and turn into gigantic fur covered bipeds that will rip you apart for giving them a side glance. This is what vampires and werewolves were meant to be – fucking scary. I suspect this series is a reaction to Twilight and its unholy sins against the genre. While reading this it felt like Brandon Hale was spitting on that series and having a good time doing it as he set things right. I’m talking thick, satisfying lung butter.

While Hale isn’t the best author around he certainly makes “Day Soldiers” a very involving read. He keeps things simple and never goes overboard with descriptions, characters or environments. Even some of the action bits are very minimalist. What he does that made me enjoy this novel so much was his creative take on the lore of vampires and werewolves.

For example – crosses, a common weapon used against vampires, aren’t effective due to their religious significance. They act as a focal point for the user’s willpower. The more you believe that it will work against a vampire the more it will harm them. It’s even explained that any object can be used in this way, like a rock or a book. The fact that Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, and countless other vampire books/movies, have always touted crosses and their effects they tend to work better than other items due how it’s infiltrated pop culture.

The same goes for the vampires. When a new vampire is made they believe, due to what they’ve heard in every vampire related piece of media pre-transformation, that they cannot enter a person’s house without being invited first. It’s referred to as a “psychosis” belonging to young vampires, and over time they will realize that these rules are actually bullshit and will be able to overcome their fear. It’s all extremely fun and interesting.

The main characters, a group of young Day Soldier recruits, are drawn in very broad strokes and aren’t given much nuance or real depth. I’m not complaining because the book is written in a very pulpy style that just gets to the point and keeps the plot moving along at a very brisk pace. That’s not to say that they characters aren’t likable. Quite the contrary. I liked every single one of them, villains included, mainly because everyone’s actions speak louder than words in this world.

The story does get a mite predictable and some of the plot threads are prematurely brought to a conclusion. Hale has written three books in this series and I was expecting a good amount of carryover into the other installments, but that appears to not be the case. Regardless, I am looking forward to the continuing adventures of Lily and her squad to see where they end up going from here.

Hale does have a tendency to repeat the same dialogue over and over and over again. I don’t have enough fingers to count the amount of times someone said “fair enough”. Plus, his characters don’t speak like real people; a common occurance I’m finding in a lot of these eBooks I’ve read recently. Another issue is the amount of stupid cheese going on in the finale and the blasé reactions people have to some of the goofy revelations. I hope this improves in the sequels.

“Day Soldiers” is a nice romp into a tired genre brought to the brink thanks to one Stephanie Meyer. Thankfully this should wipe the tears of shame away from horror fans cheeks with little effort. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to welcome these two staples of horror back into the fold of pure awesomeness.

4 out of 5

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