In my review of The Girl With All The Gifts I expressed some good-natured disbelief about how zombies are still A Thing. Imagine my surprise, then, to come across the new novel The Quick only to find that vampires are still A Thing. As with The Girl With All the Gifts, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to let you know vampires are involved. It’s revealed pretty early on.
I guess vampires are harder to kill than zombies. Particularly when they’re so debonair. And belong to a club.
Now that the affectionate ribbing is out of the way, I can tell you that I enjoyed this novel immensely. It’s got great characters, a nice pace, some swell action scenes, and on top of all that it’s a very well-done piece of historical fiction.
Our story is set in London in the 189o’s. James grew up in the Yorkshire countryside with only his sister Charlotte for company. Now he’s in London at university, struggling to become a poet and playwright. He takes lodgings with a young man of aristocratic background. Soon James finds himself pulled into high society life, and toward a mysterious club in the heart of London. When James disappears, it’s up to his sister Charlotte to find him and discover the secrets of the Aegolius Club.
There are some nicely done intricate storytelling techniques in this book. Owen uses multiple narrators as well as the journal of one character, so the reader gets a nice sketch of most of the players as well as a nice picture of the broader story of the Undead in London. While there are nice Gothic elements to this story, I wouldn’t call it a Gothic novel. The atmosphere isn’t quite dark and brooding enough. Nor is there too much suspense, tension, or really a twist. I think I’d categorize it as historical fiction with some horror tones. Even a bit of Victorian-style adventure.
If you enjoyed The Quick, I’d suggest Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. It’s denser than The Quick, but completely absorbing and very intelligent. It’s a great mix of academia, horror, and mystery. The classic Dracula, which is clearly this novel’s great-grampa, would be another good choice. Toward the middle of the book, when the hunt is on and Charlotte has associated herself with an expert crew, I half-expected Van Helsing to make a cameo.
Another story that leaps to mind is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore. If you enjoy the action sequences best, and really liked the vampire hunting elements of The Quick, you might like Moore’s time and space and literary-bending graphic novel. Speaking of graphic novels, you could also check out Scott Snyder’s American Vampire series. One of the primary plot points in the story is that two very different factions of vampires exist–the Old World vampires are not too unlike the members of the Aegolius Club.
I’ve got one other little quibble, and it’s kind of a spoiler. So SPOILER ALERT:
Oscar Wilde has a brief cameo in the beginning of the book. We later learn that the Aegolius Club has the idea to turn all of the best men in London into vampires. The reader is left to infer that James and Christopher were attacked because they were mistaken for Wilde (I think?). THEN IT’S NEVER ADDRESSED AGAIN. I was really disappointed. I was expecting Wilde to burst in and quip all the club men to death and then the heroes would all go to a fancy-dress party and deliver more witticisms.
Alas, it was not to be. Maybe there’s a sequel in the works.
ETA: Oh my goodness it has been done. Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders. Oh dear me.