By S.P. Somtow
Timmy Valentine is a child rock star. Teens
swoop for his soulful, enthralling dark eyes and his voice enchants and
captivates. It is the voice of an angel.
A Tor Book, 362 pp, 1984
Timmy looks 11 years old, and like most
child stars he is troubled. You see, he is beginning to feel something he
has not felt in, well, a long time: Compassion. This disturbs Timmy, and
he seeks out an analyst, a Ms. Carla Ruebens, who quickly falls in love
with him. She will help him explore his deepest emotions, probing the dim
corners and recesses of his mind.
Oh yes, one last thing. Timmy is a two
thousand year-old vampire.
That is the setup to what has become a
classic in the horror genre. The
Horror Writers Association lists it as one of the top 40 horror
novels of all time, which is mainly why I read it (One of my goals in life
is to read every horror novel in HWA’s Top 40. Counting Vampire
Junction, I’ve finished eight. Still a ways to go.).
Anyway, I had seen the novel several
times at the library, before I realized it was supposed to be so great,
and passed it up because it didn’t look like the type of vampire novel I
enjoy reading. I like my vampires dark, brooding, and shadowy, lurking in
the background – in a word, scary. A good example of scary vs. non-scary
vampire fiction is Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. The first three were
great (interestingly, Lestat, the main character, performs for a time as a
rock star, a la Timmy Valentine). I stopped reading the Chronicles after
the fourth installment, The Body Thief, because it degenerated into
a psychobabble, homosexual literary device. It was no longer scary, not
Vampire Junction, from all
appearances, seemed very similar – why does a vampire need a shrink? –
but I was pleasantly surprised. On the whole, the book is well paced with
several truly frightening moments. Yes, it has its share of inner-seeking,
emotion-laden nonsense, but not too much to ruin the story.
Timmy has been a vampire for two
thousand years, and through the probing of his vast memory by Carla, we
relive several harrowing moments of the boy vampire’s existence. He is
captured by Bluebeard and trapped at Auschwitz, for example. While
entertaining, the relevance these scenes have to the main plot is sketchy.
The novel also features a group of old
men who encountered Timmy 60 years ago, when as children they sacrificed a
young girl in a church. They called themselves the Gods of Chaos and
dabbled in various occult practices. One of the former members of the
group, conductor Stephen Miles, sees a photo of Timothy and recognize him
as the same creature in the church so long ago. Thinking their foul deed
conjured up this evil spirit, the Gods of Chaos gather one last time to
track Timmy down and send him whence he came.
I can see why this is considered a
classic, and I may read the sequel, but I think the author dwells too much
on Timmy’s past, and that tends to slow the book down. Still, a vampire
buff would no doubt enjoy it, as I did.