What a strange, ambitious, and frustrating book. Fangland is a retelling of Dracula in the present, with the twist of adding a tv news show as the novel's focal point.
The Dracula version is interesting for readers of Stoker's novel. The similarities are numerous. Fangland begins with a character named Harker who travels to Transylvania to connect with a mysterious, powerful man about a business deal, then things go awry. The villain travels to a powerful imperial city - here, New York - and begins to wreck havoc. Both books cast themselves as collections of documents, although Fangland falls short on this score (little use of tech; some "documents" lack materiality, and one is openly made up by the editor). There's a Renfield in the Marks version. In both the villain is destroyed at the end, with Harker(s) playing a key role.
The differences are intriguing, beyond the updating of time and place. The focus on The Hour(clearly a parody of/tribute to 60 Minutes) returns to Stoker's use of technology, and implies an unremarkable argument about tv replacing empire. Jonathan and Mina Harker are replaced by one protagonist, Evangeline Harker, and her husband, who's useless, uninteresting, and removed from the plot. Evangeline breaks from Stoker in her post-Romania sojourn. Instead of merely recovering in a nunnery, as with Jonathan, this heroine has surreal adventures around eastern and central Europe, culminating in the destruction of a truly interesting character. Clementine is a missionary, or a secret agent, or a cross between the two. But Marks never fleshes out her background, a thread left dangling pointlessly for the novel's second half.
Zombies keep on rising. One recent datapoint is the number of Amazon Kindle ebooks with "zombie" in the title.
On Halloween night in 2011, there were 2,269 different Kindle ebooks with their word “zombie” in their title. But by 2012, that number had more than doubled, with 4,874 zombie ebooks there were now available on the Kindle. And this year? OMG! Amazon’s Kindle store now has 8,052 zombie ebooks!
Check that link for a wide-ranging catalog of titles. For example,
The Zombie Attached To My Head My Lovesick Zombie Boy Band A Christmas Carol of the Living Dead: a zombie holiday tale. An Inconvenient Amish Zombie Left Behind The Da Vinci Diet Code Truth Texas Biker Zombies From Outer Space Jesus Camp Zombie Bloodbath Nobody Wants to Play With Zombie Jesus Diary of a Duct Tape Zombie Goddamn Redneck Surfer Zombies Attack of the Shark-Headed Zombies Jailbait Zombie Zombie Project Management
A very fine zombie novel, maybe the best one yet, Zone One takes place during three days late in a zombie apocalypse. Zombies (never named as such, always called "the dead", or "skels") have overrun most of the world and devoured the majority of the human race.
The main character, "Mark Spitz" (a nickname; we never learn his real name) works on a team of soldiers clearing out Manhattan, renamed the titular Zone One - "obviously, sightseeing had taken a hit over the past few years" (73). They work through city buildings room by room, exterminating any leftover zombies, helping prep the area for eventual resettlement. North of their "sweeping" stands a giant wall across the island, from which soldiers rain down fire upon a fairly steady stream of invading zombies. New York is a magnet for human stagglers from around the northeast, a safe haven and place for action. America, led by a new government in Buffalo, is getting ready for rebirth.
Alongside this martial action in the present, half of the book is flashbacks and stories. Indeed, a major theme of Zone One is the role of memory, its fragile construction and the doomed passion with which we hang on to it. Whitehead seeds the novel with hints of the past, returning to each one later, fleshing out main and secondary characters. This focus is one way the book seems to reach out beyond the zombie subgenre.
The world is very well realized through these frequent detours into the past. We also see the many ways America reinvents itself, from a new anthem/theme song to corporate donations to a pervasive armadillo logo. Additionally, Whitehead has fun inventing terms and nicknames: skels, for zombies; stragglers, the malfunctioning and poignant living dead; the American Phoenix, a kind of rebranding/imposed social movement for post-zombie reconstruction (adherents are "pheenies"); Last Night, the zombie onset; PASD, Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder; No-no Cards, helpful behavioral instructions from the new government. The satire is grim, reminding me of Margaret Atwood in her post-apocalypse trilogy.
Speaking of satire and style, Whitehead's prose is a pleasure to read, combining sensual details, a wry eye, and rich (for the subgenre) language. For example,
The water has an extremely high soda and salt content, so high that it would strip the ink off my Kodak film boxes within a few seconds. The soda and salt causes the creatures to calcify, perfectly preserved, as they dry.
The tv series Hannibalis a nice Gothic show, which we should discuss. For now I'd like to note that it closely draws on the 1981 Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon.
In fact, the series treats this novel very seriously, almost to the point of being fanfiction. Here are some references:
-Many secondary characters appear, either directly or with gender switching, like Dr. Bloom (2), Fredy Lounds (39), Chilton (75), Garrett Jacob Hobbs (116) -Will Graham's weird method (3) as "pure empathy" (194), even to the point of the pendulum/windshield washer visualization (12) -Graham wakes up with saturated sheets (22) -Graham sees killer an man-shaped darkness (247) -Graham's collection of stray dogs (5) (although they're describes as extremely ugly, not cure) -Lector's body count (68) -the classic prison interview setup, seen in every movie and at the end of Hannibal's season finale (79) -killing Hobbs felt good to Graham, and Lecter wants him to embrace it (348)
Specific foreshadowing to the end of _Hannibal_: -Hannibal seriously wounded Will (3, 40) -Will's institutionalization (116)
3 May. Bistritz.-- Left Munich at 8:35 P.M., on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late. Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets. I feared to go very far from the station, as we had arrived late and would start as near the correct time as possible.
Yes, it's time for the Count to ride again, as the Draculablog sets off!