Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mock Printz: Night Road by A.M. Jenkins

Title: Night Road
Author: A.M. Jenkins
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 978006054605
YALSA Best Books Nomination 2009

Cole isn’t a vampire. He and others just like him prefer the term “heme”, short for hemovore. At the start of Night Road, Cole is summoned to The Building, the New York headquarters of The Colony (organized heme community). A building with covered windows, company and conversation not to mention a willing supply of omnis (that would be us humans) offering veins, arteries and anything else the hemes desire. Reluctant to be there but unable to shrug off his friend Johnny’s request, Cole reunites with faces of old. When a new heme, an “accident” named Gordon, takes a bit too much from an omni, Cole learns the reason of his visit. Johnny, who runs the building (possibly the Colony) needs his help. Gordon must learn the heme basics, separate lore from reality and realize the responsibilies and limitations. A painful lesson Cole thought he’d learned himself a long long time ago. One tied to what’s housed in the Building’s fifth floor and the reason why Cole prefers life on the lonely road to the lazy, spoiled, slightly crowded atmosphere of the Building. Cole and his friend, the ever optimistic and kind, Sandor (responsible for turning Gordon) will take the young newbie on the road. The idea being Gordon will have the benefit of Sandor’s warm heart and Cole’s cool head. A string of motels, bars, battles of will, heme lessons on feeding techniques, avoiding sunlight, strays, immortality and personal experiences make this road trip a little flip-side Supernatural (Dean & Sam) and a little Kerouac (Dean and Sal). Cole might have started out as the teacher but by book’s end he learns just as much from his student as Gordon learns from him.

Admittedly, I’m a big vampire-novel fan girl. That said, I can be particular about the genre. This book passed muster. The noir-ish tone. The clear pictured settings of the seedy motels. All of that worked for me. What heme lore Jenkins’ imparts also gels nicely. But the strongest element is characterization; especially Cole and Gordon, be it as individuals or when they interact on the road. Gordon moves from petulant frat boy and spoiled heme to a more responsible, controlled one. Cole, who’s closed himself off from nearly everyone, reluctantly allows a new connection, loses some of his own footing for the first time in a while. Teaching Gordon is a sort of positive penance for Cole for a past mistake and Cole is able to work through issues he’s been harboring for over a century. Gordon is overtly vulnerable. Cole just hides it better.
The pace of Jenkins’ revelations is teasing and bubbles to the surface in a way that gives readers hints but taunts Cole like submerged memories.
All in all Jenkins doesn’t disappoint and people who appreciate her other supernatural tales (Repossessed and Beating Heart) will enjoy her very human hemes. I’m hoping for more from this traveling trio.

No comments: