Stalking the Vampire: One of the best urban fantasy series

book reviews Mike Resnick Fable of Tonight 1. Stalking the Unicorn 2. Stalking the Vampire 3. Stalking the Dragonurban fantasy book reviews Mike Resnick Stalking the VampireStalking the Vampire by Mike Resnick

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Mike Resnick has won an impressive 5 Hugo Awards, been nominated for 26 more, and is the all-time award winner — living or dead — for short fiction. He has sold 54 novels, more than 200 short stories, and has also edited 50 anthologies. His work ranges from satirical fare, such as his LUCIFER JONES adventures, to weighty examinations of morality and culture, as evidenced by his brilliant tales of KIRINYAGA. The series, with 66 major and minor awards and nominations to date, is the most honored series of stories in the history of science fiction. Some of Mike Resnick‘s other recent releases include Starship: Rebel (Pyr Books, December 2008) and Kilimanjaro: A Fable of Utopia (Subterranean Press, December 2008).

PLOT SUMMARY: It’s Halloween, and John Justin Mallory’s partner, Winnifred Carruthers, has been so busy preparing for the biggest holiday of the year — in the other Manhattan anyway — that she seems short of energy and pale. Mallory is worried that she’s been working too hard. Then he notices the two puncture marks on her neck…
On this night when ghosts, goblins and other creatures of the night are out celebrating, detective Mallory must stalk the vampire who has threatened his assistant, Winnifred Carruthers, and killed her nephew. With the aid of Felina the catgirl, a vampire who doesn’t act like a vampire, and a dragon that writes hard-boiled private eye stories, Mallory’s hunt takes him all over the place, including Creepy Conrad’s Cut-Rate All-Night Mortuary, the Annual Zombies’ Ball, the Hills of Home Cemetery, and Battery Park. Along the way he meets a few old friends and enemies, and a host of strange new inhabitants in this otherworldly Manhattan. But as dawn approaches, time is running out on Mallory to find and stop a millennia-old vampire before he can kill again…

CLASSIFICATION: Employing the same formula found in Stalking the Unicorn and the JOHN JUSTIN MALLORY short stories, Stalking the Vampire cleverly and humorously mixes together elements of a hard-boiled detective mystery with contemporary fantasy, campy satire, and dialogue-driven irony. For fans of Simon R. Green‘s NIGHTSIDE series, Jim Butcher‘s THE DRESDEN FILES and Mike Resnick.

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 268 pages divided over thirty chapters, which are denoted by time — Chapter 1: 6:30 PM — 6:55 PM. Brilliant extras include a speech on Stalking the Vampire by Col. Winnifred Carruthers before the Blood Sports Enthusiasts of the Lower South Manhattan; a monograph by Professor Seldon Hari, Chief Curator of the Museum of Unnatural History, on “Debunking the Vampire”; and an excerpt from Scaly Jim Chandler’s Stalking the Vampire. Narration is in the third person, objective, but mainly follows in the footsteps of private eye John Justin Mallory. Stalking the Vampire takes place after Stalking the Unicorn and the subsequent JOHN JUSTIN MALLORY short stories, and is self-contained. August 2008 marked the US Hardcover publication date for Stalking the Vampire, while the book was released in Canada on September 16, 2008. The cover artwork is provided by Dan Dos Santos.

ANALYSIS: Unfortunately, the previous book, Stalking the Unicorn, set the bar so high that it was almost inevitable for Stalking the Vampire to fall short. Even though Mike Resnick didn’t do anything to change the formula — besides updating the time period with cell phones and DVDs — the humor in Stalking the Vampire is a little less funny, the dialogue not as crisp, and the author’s imagination doesn’t seem as creative. In addition, some of the book’s jokes — like Felina’s insatiable appetite and the tenacious merchant goblins — feel a little stale, while the plot itself is lacking in wit and payoff, particularly the unsatisfying resolution to the vampire dilemma.

On the bright side, the novel sports some really great ongoing inside jokes, including Mallory always betting on the horse Flyaway who has now lost 64 times in a row; the references to oversexed secretaries named Thelma or Velma; odd named streets like Lust, Sloth, Death, Despair, Destruction, or Agony; and the relationship that Mallory has with his enemy, Grundy. Even the jokes regarding Felina’s hunger and inconsistent temperament and the goblins trying to sell Mallory such items as underage goblin girls, encyclopedias, children’s aspirin, iced lemonade, or snakes can be amusing at times. The characters are still quirky: Bats McGuire, Scaly Jim Chandler, Aristotle Draconis, Captain Blight, Albert Feinstein. Some of the ideas in the book are really comical, such as drive-by funerals and references to previous Mallory stories. Finally, getting to visit the other Manhattan’s recognizable attractions like the Vampire State Building, Madison Round Garden, Battery Park, Greenwhich Village — and the way they differ from our Manhattan — is always a hoot.

Last, but certainly not least, the satirical elements are as sharp as ever, with Stalking the Vampire poking fun at vampires (Vlad and the Impalers, sonar lessons from Vladimir Plotkin, vampire racism) as well as the billion-dollar romance novel industry, hard-boiled detective fiction, popular culture, and even the book itself.

CONCLUSION: Out of all of the JOHN JUSTIN MALLORY stories that I’ve had a chance to read, including “Shell Game” from The Solaris Book of New Fantasy, and the five other short stories — “Posttime in Pink,” “The Blue-Nosed Reindeer,” “Card Shark,” “The Chinese Sandman,” “The Amorous Broom” — that Mike Resnick was kind enough to send me, the previous novel in this series, Stalking the Unicorn is easily my favorite. It’s also, in my opinion, the best of the JOHN JUSTIN MALLORY stories, and compared to that book, Stalking the Vampire comes up wanting in a few key areas such as dialogue, wit and humor. Even so, Stalking the Vampire is still a hell of a lot better than most of the stuff that’s passing for urban fantasy these days, and if I had to choose between the two, nine times out of ten, I’m sticking with Mallory. So here’s hoping that Mike Resnick has many more JOHN JUSTIN MALLORY stories to tell…


SHARE:  facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail  FOLLOW:  facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrsstumblr

ROBERT THOMPSON is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

View all posts by Robert Thompson (retired)

2 comments

  1. I’ve read Stalking the Unicorn and…maybe Stalking the Vampire? I don’t remember if that was the next in the series. Both were a bit meh for me. But then Dresden is probably only a 3 star for me too. Same for Simon Green. What’s lacking to make them 5 stars you ask? (Well, you didn’t, but yanno.)

    The characters. The story is there, the plot is there (mostly, although sometimes corny) but I don’t find myself attached to the characters. The humor falls flat for the most part. Oh, Unicorns definitely had that kind of … clumsy detective that I like, but, something was missing for me, some element to make me LIKE the character more, to care more about what happened. Same with Dresden and Green (yeah, I know I’m mixing characters and authors.) I don’t hate any of them, I am just not drawn back to them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>