Sick of the same old tired, uber powerful vamps but can't quite let go of those sexy suckers? Definitely give Vamp Camp a try then. This hilarious, witty, sly, entertaining, sexy, and flat out laugh out loud funny romp hits so many high points that the flatter notes are somewhat forgiven. Not without its missteps, the story sets a pretty high bar for itself that is incredibly difficult to maintain. It mostly succeeds with only a few frustrating moments and ultimately the book is simply total fun to read. There are some annoying contrivances you have to forgive and the romance angle is sacrificed for hot sex, which is unfortunate. Yet, I eagerly await book two in the series to see what this engaging cast is up to next.
Right away you're introduced to the first person narrator, Mårten. Mårten talks to you, the reader, as he explains that he's going to tell you a story as he remembers it. He starts with his background and childhood with a mom that gave him a three dollar bill to show him how queer he is. Oh and she always reminds him to eat his cereal. From this absent but caring in its own way home to joining the military, Mårten is not your average person let alone sailor. When he's taken prisoner and eventually turned into a vampire, his manual is a bunch of crudely drawn figures and a circle with an x threw it. First attempting to learn on his own, Mårten's life changes when he meets fellow vampire, Menz who agrees to show him how to be a successful vampire. Sex, revenge, romance, true love, floating lessons, epic vampire fights, and lots of twinks in tiny shorts all converge to give Mårten a new life.
The writing is immediately irreverent, sarcastic, and in engaging. Mårten starts off talking to the reader and although this falls away when he gets into story telling, there is always an aspect of this that is present. Comic timing in books is incredibly difficult to pull off and attempting to give 250 pages of that is a near impossible mission. The initial jokes and sarcastic tone can start to wear thin pretty quickly without a deft hand and so I have a lot of respect for the author for attempting it and mostly succeeding. It's not entirely successful and there are a few contrivances that did annoy me. There are some editing mistakes and repetitive phrasing and prose that stand out, but for the most part aside from these few stutters, the writing is pretty engaging. These annoyances are also likely to vary from reader to reader.
The first is that the narrator likes to make the following comment or some variation "if you ask me. Which you did since you bought the book." The first time is humorous but repeated comments just jar me out of the story. I'm reminded that I'm reading not just the narration of the speaker, but also an author that is manipulating the story. I prefer to be totally engaged in the story and not be reminded I'm reading what someone wrote. Similar annoyances come in notes and aside about the writing process within the text of the story. For example there is a comment about adding information for editors and the note about why the narrator uses the term "homosexual" versus gay. None of this information is really necessary and feels as though the author is justifying any qualms before you can raise them.
The sarcastic tone of Mårten carries well and never gets tired due to a deft handle on action, sex, and vampire politics. Mårten reminds me of an irreverent teenager that wants all the cool toys and only discovers the responsibility through trial and error. His characterization is decent but all of the characters in the rather large, entertaining cast are somewhat superficial without a lot of depth. None are boring from Menz and his teenager looks but sophisticated style to the bevy of twinks in tiny shorts running around as blood donors and named after Shakespeare's characters. Mårten's lover Oberon is a mystery and little is ever revealed about him. This is one of the weakest aspects of the book since Oberon and Mårten fall in love due to compatible sex - and lots of it. Mårten even mentions that they rarely talk, they mostly have sex so their instant love has little basis. Yet their sex scenes are pretty hot, keeping in line with the lighter tone and purpose of the story.
For all the stutters and missteps, the narrator's voice held the book for me. The plot is sometimes over the top with very powerful vampires but the wonder and awe are clear as is Mårten's point of view. Here's an example of the dialogue carrying the quick back and forth that hallmarks the strengths of the story:
"Why is there a circle over the `å' in my name?" I asked mother.
"You're Swedish," mother said.
"Guys at school think it's sissy."
"Good, it'll make you grow up tough."
My own mother. I always thought about suing her over that name. Shouldn't there be some kind of maternal malpractice?
"I'm taking you to court," I told her once.
"Eat your cereal," she said.
"I'm gay, you know."
"I'm not blind," she said.
"It makes me sensitive."
"That's nice, dear. Eat your cereal."
Whether it's a disconnected mother or a gracious smiling butler with impeccable fashion sense, the cast of characters shine in this light, entertaining, and hilarious romp. There may be a lot of depth to each but really it doesn't matter. The story and men are engaging, interesting, and offer something fresh in the over saturated world of super powerful vampires. I'm eagerly awaiting book two and really hope it is about Menz and Paco. I'm incredibly curious what kind of voice either would have and the age difference, thousand year old vampire and 19 y/o twink. No matter who the narrator of the next story is, it promises to be fun so pick up Vamp Camp now and enjoy a light, easy, funny time.