Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Bastard Reaction: Generation V by M. L. Brennan
This would've been an easy title to overlook; a seemingly by the numbers vampire story from a debut author with a cute guy (or so I've been told) on the cover and not much else. It screamed "Pass!" to me, a book intended for someone else. Thankfully I didn't after seeing a couple of positive reactions to it from like-minded readers, and the level of excitement editor Anne Sowards showed for the release of this novel. I can honestly say Generation V by M. L. Brennan is the most fun I've had reading an urban fantasy novel in the past year or more. Don't make the same mistake and judge the book by its cover, you'll thank me later. It's the first of the American Vampire urban fantasy series.
Fortitude is living an unfulfilling life, and even though he surely is aware of his circumstances, he doesn't seem to care much about improving his situation; content in living a life without confrontations and conflicts while remaining as willfully ignorant as possible. He has a "girlfriend" who's sleeping around, yet has him convinced that it's normal, he has dead-end job with ungrateful co-workers, and a roommate who refuses to pay the rent. If that wasn't enough he's a vampire, in the making, but hasn't manifested yet, something he's praying doesn't happen ever. His plan is to avoid becoming a full vampire like the rest of his family, cruel murderous vampires in his view responsible for a childhood tragedy that has left him traumatized for the rest of his life. This explains why he's now living the life as he is now, being as good and ethical as he possibly can, but with little ambition. What's a goody-two-shoe to do though when a maniac vampire comes to town, and no one is willing to stand against him? With the help of the kitsune Suzume, Fortitude looks to change the fortune of his life or die trying doing what's right.
Generation V is a multifaceted novel which took care to depict precisely what Fort's life is all about. It's fun and funny, as it's dark and tragic. We spend a few days with Fort in a story that is character focused, and are invited to experience all as he does from the dullest to the most exciting of moments. What follows is a well balanced novel which contains a mixture of slice-of-life, family drama, comedy, mystery, suspense, action, and horror. A combination that works and provides perfect contrast between the lighthearted moments and those that are surprisingly dark and horror filled.
The characters were a big plus, probably Brennan's biggest storytelling strength in my opinion. Not only did she create memorable characters, she also provided some terrific character interaction which is one of the elements I'm most interest in. That's not to say everything was smooth sailing. I mean, I spent the whole book wishing I could punch Fortitude in the balls to see if he finally grew a pair. He was living in denial and extremely naïve, to the point that is was unbelievable and frustrating. By the same token, in the end it becomes part of his charm, but still...fist meet Fort's testicles.
Besides him, we have an assortment of incredibly good secondary characters starting with Fort's siblings with similarly eccentric names: his brother Chivalry and sister Prudence. Both who are aptly named, which I'll leave at that. We also have Madeline, his mother and head vampire of the region and a character who's clearly playing the long game. Lastly we have the kitsune Suzume who easily stole the show in this book. Generation V was a pretty good read, but when Suzume was introduced the novel just went to a whole different level. She was awesome. Before I began reading, anime was my passion, so when anything concerning Japanese culture gets introduced I get quite excited. Bias aside, Suzume was simply amazing. She was fun and funny, as well as incredibly mischievous and quite badass. To that point, I say screw Generation V, when are we going to get Generation K? I kid I kid, but hey that's an idea... She really complemented Fort, and they made an incredible duo as the story progressed to say nothing of the fascinating banter between them. When Suzume was around, life didn't suck all that much, "even if you're a vampire".
World-building is still a work in progress, it's clear that the world being created here is quite expansive, but not much of an opportunity to get into just yet. There was a point where Brennan tried to expand by introducing a couple of minor characters as an attempt to show different supernatural beings that exist in this world, but the attempt felt a bit off to me. Like it didn't quite fit either the world that's being created, or the story that was being told in this particular book. But at the same time we met the full kitsune contingent, and that worked perfectly, so I hope that as Brennan expands on the world, things will get more interesting.
That aside, the vampire mythology was incredible and quite unique. I can honestly say I haven't seen something quite like this, so kudos to Brennan's creativeness. From the way vampires are created, to the way the have relationships, to the effects bloodsucking has, everything was well thought-out. And we can't forget how she reinvents the meaning of what it is to be a Renfield which was very intriguing.
The novel is not action packed, but there's plenty of energy and movement. And yes, it has action and it's well executed when there is. The story was quite funny at times, I think it actually made me laugh a couple of times, which the written word finds hard to do with me. It has an abundance of great confrontations though, usually in the form of Fort with his family members. Just the same, the story goes quite dark at times, disturbingly so on occasions and fascinatingly violent. This to say, that there's a little bit of everything here for all kinds of readers.
Generation V is a refreshingly unique novel that all urban fantasy enthusiast should read, and a book capable of encouraging even the most ardent critics of the genre. Very much a page turner, a story that has a lot of heart and much to offer. With an extremely fun novel full of charm, Brennan has written a winner. Very much looking forward to future adventures featuring Fort and Suzume. They can't come soon enough, Iron Night comes out next January.
Buy Generation V from The Book Depository.
For more information please visit M. L. Brennan's website or follow on Twitter @BrennanML.
Oh, and the cover for Iron Night, much better I say. Do you agree?