Reviewed by Carnell
Written by John Skipp and Craig Spector
Vampire fiction has always been a mainstay of the horror genre and over the years readers have seen The Undead go from reanimated corpse with a thirst for blood (in such stories as James Malcolm Rymer’s Varney The Vampire and Dr. John William Polidori’s The Vampire), to the Gothic costume dramas dripping with thinly veiled sex (Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla and Bram Stoker’s Dracula are but two examples) and on into modernity with the works of Laurel K Hamilton’s Anita Blake novels, Nancy Collins’ Sunglasses After Dark series, and Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series. But something changed back in 1986 with the release of Skipp & Spector’s seminal Splatterpunk novel, The Light at the End. Vampire fiction got all-too-real and downright kinetic in tone. For Skipp & Spector, vampires were not so much an expression of nocturnal fears and the dread of death, but rather they were an expression of the modern age. Remember, this was the mid-Eighties… Ronald Reagan was in office, big business was running seemingly unchecked, and most importantly Punk had become a staple in the modern culture. For Skipp & Spector, The Light at the End was not merely a tale to be told around the campfire. For them, it was a literal call to arms for disenfranchised and disaffected youth to rise up and reclaim horror fiction so that it might better reflect their newly formed sensibilities. The Light at the End was – and remains – a benchmark in vampire fiction.
Light’s narrative is about Rudy Pasko: punk, jerk, and all around douche-bag. When Rudy finds himself literally in the wrong place at the exact wrong time, he’s “turned” and becomes a vampire. The problem is that, for Rudy, the change from human into supernatural entity is about as empowering as it gets and he sets off into the dark and dirty streets of New York painting the town red with the blood of his victims. Of course every evil must be counter-weighted by something (or someone) virtuous and Light is no exception. Enter the Fearless Vampire Hunters: Joseph Hunter and his cohorts (Rudy’s friend, Stephen and his pals Allan, Ian, and Rudy’s ex-girlfriend Josalyn). Hunter is a hulking, bad-tempered guy who feels it is his duty to hunt the monster in his midst down. As the story progresses, of course, these two diametrically opposed forces can only collide–and boy do they.
The prose of Light is a muscly, aggression-fueled, masterwork of the vampire fiction genre that few have matched to this day. Skipp & Spector paint the rain-swept landscape of The Big Apple with such an assured hand that you can almost the smell urine, exhaust, and garbage which litters the streets there. Theirs is not the exposition of supposition, but rather the sense memory of guys who have walked the boroughs and know their beauty (and their dangers) firsthand. With strong characterization and an eye for detail that is uncanny, Skipp & Spector drag the reader by the collar down into the underbelly of the city and show that the horrible things they’d once imagined to be down there are indeed there, patiently laying in wait.
For years, The Light at the End was only available in second-hand bookshops or as used collectibles via places like Amazon or eBay. Thankfully, Crossroad Press & Macabre Ink Digital have resurrected this seminal piece of genre literature and this past Halloween re-issued it as an eBook in celebration of the novel’s 25th anniversary. In this day and age of shimmering vampires and narratives watered-down enough to be aired on television, Skipp & Spector are being brought back to remind us all of what vampires truly are: mean, ill-tempered sanguinivores that want from you only your life’s blood.
5 out of 5
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