Thursday, June 3, 2010
Review: Sand Dragon by Michael F. Stewart
From the Publisher:
The discovery of an immense pterosaur skeleton lures paleontologist Kim Axon to the tar sands near her childhood home of Fort Mic. But Kim's not the only one drawn to the find's siren call, and others are coming for a very different reason.
Fort Mic, where Kim's father was murdered long ago, is both blessed and cursed by the shadow population who gravitate to the area for cheap trailers while they mine the sands for oil. Townsfolk begin to fall sick. Fearing the spread of the strange disease, the new doctor quarantines the town.
Now alone, the broken community must rise above its past to battle outsiders who do not fear the return of an ancient evil, but worship it.
Review (with minimal spoilers):
The book opens a bit slowly, with some very technical and specific writing about mining tar sands without including enough of an explanation for the average layman. I was unfamiliar with the Alberta tar sands, Fort Mic, Fort Mac, and the shadow people... which meant that I started the book with very little background information. I also didn't have enough background on the aboriginal people- until page 60 when several pages were devoted to just that subject. Page 60 also seemed to be when the pace of the story picked up and the nightmare of the Sand Dragon begins in earnest. So while I began the book being mildly confused, especially as I tried to learn each new character and plot line, once those issues were explained I was able to immerse myself in the story. And despite the slow start, I did keep reading so something must have hooked me.
Several main characters are introduced fairly quickly and the evil stranger Sebastian is one of the most interesting. Sebastian is slightly reminiscent of Bram's Stoker's Dracula, not the Gary Oldman romantic version but the creepy, disturbing original that leaves you unsettled without quite knowing why.
"Sebastian Bythell was an old bastard, over eighty at a minimum by the dating of his degrees and some of the books he'd published on the subject of hybrids...often joked with interviewers that he entered the field after he learned his great-grandmother had burned as a witch. He wasn't affiliated with any university or museum and had been accused twice of buying and selling illegal antiquities, most notably an ancient silver axe."
Kim Axon, the main character, at first seems to be slightly neurotic and prone to dramatic displays of temper regarding any and all fossils discovered in the sands. She also has some deep seeded personal issues regarding her family and her own health. She definitely evolves and when faced with the impossibility that vampires have reawakened an ancient sort of evil, she gains a determined inner strength and uses her intelligence to help the town survive.
"I want to live, Garrett." She swallowed. "I want to give myself the best chance at it."
The book is a cross between 30 Days of Night and a SyFy channel movie, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I admire strong characters and Kim, Sandy, Tom and even Alice, never give up and fight to the death. They are wholly determined to beat the vampires at all costs because they know that allowing the evil to spread will mean the end of humanity. Stewart also creates a unique view of the vampire mythology by tying together the origins of vampires, and the subsequent binding by aboriginal tribes, with realistic and creative storytelling.
Just be warned that the tiny sucking mouths attached to the end of writhing tentacles are super creepy and these vampires are in no way playing for our team. They want to suck us all dry and view humans as nothing more than food.
My favorite line has been used in other reviews but this is my runner up: "To the vampires, they were the toy inside a chocolate Kinder egg."
*Reviewed by Anna Dougherty for VampChix
Next week at VampChix is DEMON WEEK! We've fun facts, books, movies, and giveaways all week. We even have a vampire giveaway (because vamps do sometimes get along with demons). Meg Cabot's latest INSATIABLE releases next Tuesday and VampChix has 2 copies to give away. Check the hilarious trailer for the book...here.