9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Brite strides boldly where Anne Rice fears to tread,
This review is from: Lost Souls (Paperback)
Lost Souls, Poppy Z. Brite's first novel, may be shockingly perverse to those not already immersed in the darker waters of fiction and life, but with its lurid omnisexuality wrapped in a blood-encased poultice of horror, it stands as a mesmerizing achievement, lending ever newer blood to the world of vampirology. While some may chide Brite's vampires for being so awfully unlike the debonair charmer Count Dracula or even the grossly disfigured Nosferatu, herein actually lies the strength of the novel. In Brite's world, good and evil do not exist, and if they do, they are oftentimes quite difficult to tell apart. There is not one character in this entire novel who is even within earshot of the bells of Normality, no one whom in all truth could be called a hero in the traditional sense. This is a world encased in darkness; even the sunlight filters through halfheartedly, as if it realizes it is just fooling itself when it pretends it can wash away the darkness with its feeble rays of light. The characters are exquisite yet deeply tainted, some by blood, some by drink and drugs, and some by the shiftier shadows that like to entomb the mind of man insidiously and secretly.
If nothing else, one cannot say these characters are forgettable. We first meet Christian, a centuries-old vampire running a bar in New Orleans. One Mardi Gras night, a trio of his brethren come into the bar and entrance him with their modern ways of dalliance, unrestrained pleasure-seeking, and vitality. Christian is both literally and figuratively cold and dead inside, but the vampire trio are electric and unrestrained. Twig and Molochai are almost childlike in their recklessness, but Zilla is something special. His mysterious chartreuse-enlivened eyes do all but breathe fire through their entrancingly hypnotic gazes. A young girl in the bar that night falls under Zilla's spell, and many months after Zilla and his friends have left New Orleans, a baby is born. The baby grows up in Maryland, knowing he is different from everyone else; his name is Nothing, and at fifteen he sets off on a journey of self-discovery. His first destination is Missing Mile, North Carolina, home of the underground musical group Lost Souls?, but he meets up, as if by fate, with Zilla's band of marauding vampires and finds the family he has been aching for all his life. He and Zilla share their bodies as well as their feasts of blood, and Nothing has little trouble adjusting to the life he knows he was born to lead; he is a vampire. Steve and Ghost, the members of Lost Souls?, enter the picture because of Nothing's strong identification with their music. Ghost is the most remarkable character in the novel, a young man blessed with a gift of seeing into the minds of others, both alive and dead; his gift can be a curse at times, though, because he knows the pain of everyone. Steve is his best friend, a perpetual drunk with a bad temper that caused him to lose the one girl he had ever loved. All the roads of each character meet in Missing Mile, and the events and tragedies set in motion lead the reader from there back to New Orleans, ending in a climax I found remarkably well done.
Poppy Z. Brite is something of an acquired taste. The sexuality of her characters is strikingly extreme, and Zilla's band of vampires are particularly uncaring in their choice of partners; the life essence can be found in a fluid other than blood, and these creatures of the night delight in sharing themselves with each other as they race through life on a perpetual search for kicks. Drug abuse runs rampant among everyone in these pages, and the act of rape is consigned to one of those who comes closest to being a good guy. As disturbing as the intense erotic aspect of Brite's writing may be, however, it lies at the core of her vampiric creations. Zilla and his gang have no morals, no code of honor, no feelings whatsoever; there is not a trace of immorality found among them because they are completely amoral. Brite raises the world of vampirism out of its traditional trappings, and therein lies the magic that sets Brite apart as a shockingly new, amazingly effective voice in modern horror.