Sunday, August 14, 2022

Jacob

Okay, like the book highlighted here last month, JACOB: A NOVEL OF THE NIGHTSIDERS (2015), by David Gerrold, is less than ten years old, too. However, it's also a vampire novel many fans might have missed, somewhat unusual and well worth checking out. This slender (just under 200 pages) but intriguing book comes from the author of the classic STAR TREK script “The Trouble with Tribbles” and many other SF works. The narrative invokes an obviously deliberate parallel to Rice’s INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, as the title character applies the label “interview” to his conversations with the narrator. The latter is a struggling author who attains some modest success over the course of the novel.

Jacob first approaches him at a meeting of a writers’ critique group, interest apparently piqued by the narrator’s perceptive remarks. Unlike the structure of Rice’s novel, which compresses Louis’s interview into a single session, JACOB shows the vampire revealing his past little by little in a series of dialogues over several years. Gerrold describes vampirism as a non-supernatural infectious disease, a “parasitic symbiosis” that converts its host into an “apex predator.” Vampires exercise cautious restraint in choosing people to transform, and only the very reckless create child or adolescent vampires. As Jacob points out, why would anyone want a callow youth as an immortal companion? Also unlike Louis, Jacob doesn’t describe the process of his transformation. In fact, we never learn how the change is done.

Born in Seattle in 1858, Jacob was orphaned at an early age and had to live on the streets, stealing and whoring. “Monsieur,” seeing potential in him, adopted and educated him, eventually sending him to Harvard. By then, Jacob knew of his guardian’s true nature, at least as much as Monsieur chose to reveal. Jacob expected to be transformed eventually. But then he received news of a fire that destroyed the mansion in Seattle, with the owner presumed dead. Jacob tells the narrator of his search for other vampires, almost impossible to find if they don’t want to be, and some details of his post-transformation life. According to Jacob, vampires purposely choose for conversion people who, if not sociopaths already, have the capacity to become such. Only a sociopath could endure having to kill uncounted numbers of victims to survive over centuries of existence.

Logical—IF a vampire must kill every time he or she feeds, a premise I always find annoying. To me, it doesn’t make sense for an intelligent predator to endanger himself that way without a plausible reason, which few authors provide (with some notable exceptions). And even though Jacob states or at least strongly implies that vampires have to kill whenever they feed, we later witness him sipping from several victims in a row and letting them live. Aside from this quibble, I found the novel totally convincing.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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