Every vampire needs a minion -- someone to handle their daytime business transactions, keep them well-stocked on the red stuff, and to keep them company as they while away the eternity of the undead.
And, like all things, it's hard to find and keep a good minion. There's always the danger that you'll suck just a tad too much blood from them, reducing said minion to a crumbling mound of ashes, and then you have to go out and find a new minion. It's not like you can find candidates on monster.com, you know.
It turns out that even the immortal undead make the same mistake of crossing the boundary between business relationships and personal relationships. And the only problem with vampire love is that the caveat of "till death we part" no longer applies. How do you go about dumping someone after you've taken their life and turned them into a bloodthirsty nightstalker? That can be a tad awkward.
Christopher Moore mines a comic gold mine, deftly skewering the conceits of the vampire genre with precision and wit. "You Suck: A Love Story" opens just as Tommy Flood awakens for the first time as a vampire, having been transformed by his undead girlfriend, Jody. In reality, the prospect of going through the rest of eternity as a 19-year-old with superhuman strength and senses and living forever with a beautiful redheaded vamp with a hyperactive sex drive doesn't seem quite so bad.
In fact, being a vampire is a lot like becoming a super hero, without all the stressful obligations of saving the world and looking good in tights. So Jody sets out to teach Tommy -- her one-time minion and current vampire understudy -- how to cope with heightened senses, how to avoid daylight when the sun comes up and then deal with falling comatose until sunset -- and, of course, how to feed.
But you can't have a vampire love story without a vampire love triangle, and the third corner in this triangle is Elijah Ben Sapir, the vampire elder who introduced Jody to the dark side, only to be encased in a bronze shell that sits in the corner of Jody and Tommy's apartment.
Moore achieves a wonderful balance, maintaining a comedic tone as he tells a story that straddles the line between a yarn about young lovers and a story about young vampires being hunted, both by an elder and by a band of all-too-human vampire hunters. The strongest part of Moore's book is his eccentric group of secondary characters. There are Tommy's old friends, a Ganja-steeped gang of Safeway stock clerks turned vampire-hunters known as The Animals; a Las Vegas prostitute who dyed her skin blue because it turns out there are a lot of freaks in Nevada who have always wanted to get freaky with a Smurf; and a 16-year old Goth girl who goes by the name of Abby Normal and is equal parts jailbait and vampire bait. She may well have had a guidance counselor earmark her for "vampire minion" somewhere down the line. Some of the most enjoyable chapters in the book are told from Abby's perspective through diary entries where she advances her version of the plot and then gives brief updates on her little sister's battle with head lice.
Moore so perfectly nails the voice of a disaffected teenage girl with a crush on vampires that I half expect one could find Abby Normal's profile on MySpace somewhere -- and, if not her, at least several dozen girls almost exactly like her. Her voice and character are fresh and likeable and she proves to be the most endearing aspect of the book.
But the subtitle of the book is "A Love Story," and it can be hard to come up with a satisfying ending to a love story for a comedy -- especially for vampires. "Happily ever after" is a pretty lofty promise when "ever after" means forever. When Tommy begins experiencing some buyer's remorse about the whole becoming-a-vampire thing, while Jody is becoming more and more comfortable with her new life, that happy ending seems hard to accomplish. Moore's ending is unsatisfying (though open-ended enough to allow the reader to imagine another chapter that would better tie up the loose ends).
"You Suck" is a rare breed -- a good vampire book that avoids taking itself too seriously, but still tells a fun, fast-moving, and enjoyable story. Moore marries the eccentric and bizarre to the poignant and insightful, and "You Suck" does anything but.
Dan Murphy is a local freelance writer and connoisseur of vampire novels.
You Suck: A Love Story
By Christopher Moore
William Morrow, 340 pages, $21.95