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Julie Doe

Vampire Vacation - C.J. Ellisson Disclaimer: This review is based upon the 13,000 word free excerpt posted on the author’s web site. However, this was a DNF for me, so I wouldn’t have finished the entire novel even it were available.


I’m sorry to have to give this such a low rating, but I really wasn’t impressed by this excerpt.

The mechanics of the writing are poor. The story is written in the present tense, which made it a chore to read. I’ve only read one novel ("The House of Sand and Fog" by Andre Dubus) that used the present tense well, but in all the others, including this one, I found it awkward and distracting. The story is also written in the first person, and “I” and “my” are grossly overused (a common pitfall for beginning writers).

The dialogue is a particular weak point. The author very rarely uses “said’ – or in this case “say” – as a dialogue tag. Instead we get “comment”, “confirm”, “add”, “purr”, "direct", "observe", etc., and also non-dialogue tags misused as tags, such as “smile”, “snigger”, and “clears his throat”. Avoiding “said” is another beginner mistake and a *major* pet peeve of mine. The dialogue also oftens sound stiff and forced, and “as you know, Bob…” statements crop up from time to time.

Finally, the story is without context or setting. All we are told is that it’s a hotel, it’s in Alaska, and it’s shaped like a T. The hotel room in the opening scene is barely described at all. The overall lack of description makes it impossible for me to connect with the world in the story. The world doesn't seem concrete or real.

Beyond the simple mechanics listed above, other things bothered me as well.

For instance: some “Huh?” moments occurred. A murder victim with a “dent” in his head and no other obvious injuries loses half his body’s blood volume? How does that happen without any open wound? It’s supposedly dark twenty hours a day at the time of the story, but that means there’s about the same amount of daylight in the summer months; so this really isn’t the best place to have resort for vampires. At one point, Dria (the narrator) has to lean in close to determine that someone is human even though his blood is saturating the room, and another time, she can tell from many feet away that a (non-bleeding) person standing in a group of vampires is human by her scent.

Dria also comes across as shallow and unlikeable to me. For instance, she tapes her visitors in their bedrooms without their knowledge to indulge her voyuerism. Yuck. I also think my dislike for her has to do with the overall tone of the writing, which is inconsistent. Sometimes it's light-hearted wise-cracking, then it's erotic, then it's... I think the story would be vastly improved if the writing was more focused.

In summary, I made it to the end of the excerpt, but I was glad when I got to the last word. I can’t recommend this to anyone. The concept for the story might be interesting, but the execution is quite poor.