Charnas examines what kind of a creature a real vampire might be like; how it survives for centuries, how develops its protective coloration in order to blend with human society. The vampire does this not out of any need other than to have ready access to his food source. This creature is a pure predator and we are the prey. He does not, as he says himself, “confuse sex with feeding.”
Charnas creates a believable biology and mode of functioning that is coldly logical with no energy wasted on warm relationships or the pursuit of pleasure. Dr. Weyland’s impressive career, his sexual conquests, his social contacts are all means to one end: survival
This vision of the vampire is one of the most reductionist I’ve seen in literature in terms of needs and desires. The vampire only needs one thing: to be able to feed. All other goals exist in service of that one function. Even the truly monstrous vampires like Stephen King’s Kurt Barlow of Salem’s Lot seemed to take some delight in his own evilness. Weyland seems indifferent, and because of that, even less human.
As cold and dispassionate as Dr. Weyland is, several of the other characters in the book are not terribly sympathetic themselves. They are certainly well done and wholly believable, but not especially likable. For those who are sympathetic, I found myself pulling for them to make a deeper connection with Dr. Weyland, to get in there and dredge up that buried treasure of humanity in him. Charnas remains consistent with her vampire’s characterization, though. We don’t ever get that triumphant, “Ah ha! I knew there was a human being in there somewhere!” A tiny flicker of possibility at times, but in the end he is inhuman and there is no “there” to go to.
In Dr. Weyland’s interactions with the “bad guys” we see the human predators that would prey upon the predator. Here we feel the greatest empathy for the vampire’s plight and how he is victimized, but we are reminded that he’s not likely to return the favor.
I loved this book for its revealing characterization as Weyland moves through life, taking what he needs, touching others but only rarely being touched himself. When he is touched by those he inadvertently comes to care about he is able to walk away, save himself the emotional pain that would only encumber him. There’s a sort of pervasive melancholy in all of that and maybe we could draw some kind of analogy for ourselves and our human failing to connect as deeply with others as we might. But as humans we will feel the pain of that disconnection, where the inhuman Dr. Weyland is able to evade it, or perhaps never really feel it at all.
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