Crazy computers, Goth rivals, and vampires in bunny slippers. Rachel Caine certainly knows how to write a weird urban fantasy story -- and while her seventh Morganville Vampires novel starts with a tangle of seemingly unrelated plot threads, she expertly lashes them all together into a pulse-pounding story that brings about some shocking new developments. And there's more than a little tinge of horror in there too.
Claire is having a rough time -- she gets a UV bomb in the face, then nearly freezes her to death when Amelie has a suicidal depression fit. Some rough, brutal new vampires are prowling around town, and the computer hologram Ada is acting bizarrely jealous of Claire merely being around Myrnin. And because of Amelie's unhappiness, other vampires are starting to question her fitness to rule Morganville... and Claire finds herself in the middle of it.
Perhaps most distressingly, Eve has a new best buddy -- the manipulative, gorgeous "cool-girl" Goth Kim, who is also an ex-hookup of Shane's, and still holds a torch. When you have a bad sunburn, that is NOT what you want.
Unfortunately, Morganville is starting to splinter apart without Amelie's guidance -- the streets are full of brutal vampires and even more brutal vampire-killing mobs. When Kim goes missing, Claire and her friends discover a secret scheme that threatens the very existence of Morganville... and not only must Claire stop it, but she must avoid being killed by an increasingly crazed Ada, who wants Myrnin all to herself. And she's becoming too powerful to stop.
"Fade Out" starts off relatively fluffy, with Claire effectively having the worst day in the world, while her friends prepare for a rock concert and a goth production of "A Streetcar Named Desire." And for the first two thirds, Caine spins out a series of subplots that just go flying in every direction, seemingly unconnected to each other... until she lashes them together, and the plot blossoms into a brilliant, action-packed triple finale.
And Caine's writing is up to the task, since she's equally good at blending stories of romantic rivalry and rock concerts with horrific tales of vampiric invasion. She conjures some truly horrendous moments that might make your skin crawl (the giant spider, "tunnel rats," and Ada's frequent homicidal shrieks and mad laughter), but also peppers her story with generous amounts of humor, a lot of which comes from Myrnin's crazy outfits (pirate hippie!) and hilarious dialogue (""Goodness. I don't think I should be watching this. I don't think I'm old enough").
And there are some big changes in Morganville by the end. Not epic ones (the status quo is pretty much the same), but things will be different for the main cast and the vampires.
And despite being at the center of vampire power struggles, Claire remains a pleasantly ordinary character -- she's nerdy, she feels jealous, she attends classes, and she walks around for half the book with peeling skin. But she has a lot of backbone, facing down potentially homicidal vampires with nothing more than guts and a pointy object. And the kooky Myrnin adopts a spider ("I shall call him Bob"), gets electrocuted, and is fleshed out even further with a bittersweet loss.
"Fade Out" is a delicious urban fantasy read that seems fluffy at first, but quickly accelerates into a dark, funny, deeply creepy little novel. Here's hoping for many more...