(This post is also published at Guys Lit Wire.)
These days, it would seem that if you’re not writing a book about a vampire, you’re not a writer. They’re everywhere. Heartthrob vampires. Socialite vampires. Gritty urban vampires. It’s enough to make a reader want to start wearing a garlic garland into the bookstore. Most of said vampire stories are written for a particular teen girl readership. So fellas, if you were feeling left out, I have something to recommend in the pointy-teeth category. Canadian author Max Turner’s debut novel, Night Runner proves that vampire stories aren’t just for the ladies anymore.
Zack Thomson has been living in a mental institution for years, since his father’s death and since the emergence of his strange and severe allergies. He spends most of his time alone, since his skin cannot take even the smallest amount of daylight. He keeps unusual hours, staying awake most of the night, running on a treadmill and playing video games. His life is pretty scheduled, very orderly, and extremely sheltered, until one day a stranger with shocking abilities crashes his motorcycle into the Nicholls Ward with an ominous warning, “Don’t let the cops get you. He’s coming. Run!” From that moment, everything Zack thought he knew about himself shatters. He learns he is (get ready for it)… a vampire, and that his archaeologist father was a vampire hunter. Sheltered for some time in the mental ward, Zack had been protected from people who wished to abuse his powers or even harm him. Now he is on the run, hunted by some pretty nasty characters. He will come to rely on friends, and people he hardly knows, to navigate his new reality.
This is a quick read. Most of the chapters are super-short, and nearly every one ends on a cliffhanger, making you want to just keep reading. I think that this is a good thing overall, given the nature of the story, but sometimes I find too many short chapters in a book is a bit gimmicky, almost insinuating that the reader needs that constant start and stop to keep the suspense going. I would not have objected to longer chapters, with a slow and steady increase in tension throughout, as opposed to the feeling of constantly starting and stopping as the chapters raced by. In a way, this almost created a choppy sensation during reading. I didn’t feel I got the chance to settle into many of the chapters as they were over mere pages after they started.I enjoyed reading a vampire story where romance was not the central focus. This is more of a tale of survival and self-acceptance than it is a love story, although there is a romantic thread running through the narrative. It’s mostly about Zack learning to handle being a vampire, and coming to terms with the power and danger inherent in his new identity.
Turner has clean and direct style that should sit well with all sorts of readers. He can do humor, and he knows how to write an action sequence in a way that brings clear images to mind. In fact, I could really imagine this story on the screen. There’s some well-placed gore, and a whole lot of creepy fog. If you’re into Darren Shan, and if you’re sick of everyone blathering on about some girly vampire book called Twilight, then I suggest you give this one a try. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Night Runner become a series, given the ending. And why not? Guys deserve vampire books too.