I met Sam Stone for the first time at FantasyCon in Nottingham this summer. She is stunning and many of us males hid behind our piles of unsold books in case we were spotted ogling her ample assets. So it was a pleasant surprise to attend her excerpt reading to discover she is entertaining and a fine writer. Her publisher is now Terry Martin at the House of Murky Depths, a producer of excellent adult graphic fantasy comics.
Here is my review
Review of Sam Stone’s Killing Kiss
Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: The House of Murky Depths
Date of publication: September 2008
Vampire Gabriele has to move every few years in case his agelessness turns too many suspicious heads and because young women tend to die after his feeds. He cannot develop relationships but desires them, one in particular with Carolyn. However, his urges take a twist with a different woman and he feels he is losing control. In addition the woman who initiated him into the vampire existence centuries earlier crosses his path several disturbing times.
This is not just another vampire novel. Sam Stone takes us into the mind and body of the four-centuries-old young man. We are treated to a tour de force of dramatic lives, gruesome deaths through seventeenth century Italy to cruise ships, Goth clubs, and we participate in present day student life.
One of the dilemmas with vampire stories is with the continuity of the vampire with respect to his contemporaries. Imagine if you didn’t age beyond your twenty-fifth year, how your friends and colleagues would react as the years passed. Add to that Dorian Gray scenario the need to kill for blood, and our vampire has a credibility problem. The world is too small to hide in a new life, especially these days. Sam Stone doesn’t hide from this problem, indeed it becomes a feature. Gabriele shows us how he has to avoid former acquaintances or terminate them, and when he inadvertently creates another vamp, he has the unenviable task to tell her to say goodbye to her family. Therein lies a neat plot twist, but I’m not going to spoil it.
In spite of the novel creeping us out successfully there is room for the occasional gag. When Gabrielle takes his vampire protégé to seek fresh input of blood in a student restaurant district of Manchester he says: ‘Do you fancy Indian or Chinese?’ Excellent vampire joke!
The writing style is beguilingly easy but you are left with intriguing and deep aftertastes. I particularly enjoy the borderline ESP that Gabriele discovers as if by accident. For example he sees the dissipating heat signature left by a lover on a door handle. Sam Stone is gifted at following her writerly instincts in the attributes of other-being characters. Some aspects of the plot, however, elude me. Perhaps it is because the novel uses flashbacks to show Gabriele’s development, and his significant lover-victims’ lives. Not that the snippets intrude, on the contrary they are skilfully interwoven with the present day. However, because Gabriele ‘is’ 25 in all but the earliest flash backs and he is making stock investment and invention-backing decisions that are always spot on, I felt he was acting on information from his future. For example how did he know Laker Airlines were going to fail before it happened? Vampires are not usually into time travelling and I don’t think Gabriele is either. (A possible sequel as his abilities develop?) It must just be that the vampire is so superior he made wise investment choices. He should have been a banker in 2008.
Some literary techniques that I enjoy reading include the juxtaposition of opposites. For example: ‘The quiet deafens me with the roar of doubt…’ Invoking musical references are used to good effect in this novel, adding to the atmosphere with all of our senses.
One of the aspects of Killing Kiss that elevates it is the way the past catches up with Gabriele in the form of his own nemesis: the vampire that transformed him. These scenes are particularly salivating as she is Lucrezia, an Italian timeless beauty with a sanguine appetite beyond mere feeding.
Read this book and change the way you feel about vampires for the rest of your so short life.