I’d be willing to bet you didn’t know this about me, but I love vampires. Stories about them are just much more interesting and entertaining to me than ones about werewolves, zombies, etc. I can probably trace my fascination with the lore back to one wonderful, kick-ass television show–Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even now, after all these years, it’s probably my favorite live-action show. Everything about it was awesome, but the cast especially stands out more to me than even the stories. My favorite character of that bunch is by far and away Spike. So, when I found out William the Bloody was based on a vampire novel from the ’80s, I knew I had to read it someday. And here we are! Let us now join John Skipp and Craig Spector as they show us The Light at the End.
Rudy Pasko isn’t a great guy. In fact, he’s kinda an ass. He’s tall, slender, handsome, and fully aware of it. He’s also a punk artist with a massive chip on his shoulder almost as big as his ego. Still, he didn’t fully deserve what happened to him the night he stepped on the train to go to his friend Stephen’s place after a huge fight with his girlfriend Josalyn. Rudy was attacked by an ancient vampire who’d already massacred another ten or so passengers on the train. This powerful entity chose to turn the angry, arrogant youth into a vampire as a bit of fun. Although he warned Rudy not to draw attention to himself, the punk awakened and embraced his new lifestyle with murderous glee and reckless abandon. A wholly unlikely crew of messengers, artists, and other random citizens band together to combat this new malevolent force. The city of New York knows something’s up in the subways underneath, but no one could possibly know the unholy bloodbath they’re about to face.
No, I didn’t really plan to read a scary book in October this year. Believe it or not, my procrastination is just that magical. Every year I want to read and watch more “spoopy” (as the youth say) things when October rolls around, but I never do. That’s a personal problem, though. Like I said earlier, I love vampires. I’m not one of those people who wears all black and only drinks red beverages, but I am pale and rarely go out into the sun. I have a real connection to the myths, you see. Okay, enough tomfoolery. Let’s talk about The Light at the End.
First things first, I definitely see where Spike came from now. He definitely has Rudy’s look in the modern day and sheer vileness in his early years as an undead. That’s probably the thing that surprised me the most in this book. I knew going in that it’s considered the progenitor of the splatterpunk genre, but I did not expect Rudy to be as big of a monster as he becomes. He rapes and murders his away around the New York boroughs and subway tunnels in damn near giddy fashion. He was unlikable as a human, but he is downright detestable as a vampire.
As weird as it is, the heroes of the novel aren’t too terribly likable themselves. I don’t know if that was intentional or if it’s dated smartass edginess or what, but I found myself not caring too much about who lived or died. The messengers Joseph (“Mr. Aptly Named”) Hunter, Ian, and Allan are among the best of them, but they have their own set of problems that prevented me from getting fully behind any of them. Rudy’s pre-vampire friends Stephen and Josalyn probably have the best character arcs, and it was great seeing those finally come to fruition. Shop-owner Danny, vampire fan-girl Claire, the two transit workers, and the other messengers ranged from just being there to being head-slappingly annoying. By far the best of this vampire-hunting group was the Van Helsing surrogate, Armond. It’s stated repeatedly he’s lived through some unspeakable stuff, so although he realizes he needs to see to it that Rudy is killed, he doesn’t fear him in the least. One cool old dude.
The story itself is your pretty basic vampire stuff: Vampire’s in town, so it’s up to a handful of men and women to take him down. The desire to see Rudy taken down is the driving force, but I do wish we’d found out more about the vampire who turned him. Just know he’s more evil than evil and that he was Dracula’s mentor. I did find it really weird that crosses and holy water do the trick here, but the book seems almost angry that Christian iconography can combat vampires. It felt like the authors hated they had to use that stuff. Couple that with almost every main character being a pothead, and you have some odd choices. I mean, sure. It was the ’80s. Be rebels and punks and hell yeah and whatnot. Seemed weird, though.
The Light at the End was an extremely easy read for me when it finally got to the hunt, but it was a bit of slow going since there are only a handful of genuinely likable characters in the book. I can safely say it won’t make my top five from this reading challenge when all’s said and done. I’d still suggest it to fans of vampires or just horror in general, though.
Kinda considering getting halfway through that first reading challenge before I call it quits and try a different one next year since this was supposed to be done in 2015. Or maybe I’ll just try and soldier through to finally finish this one before 2019 rolls around. Either way, the next book is one that’s more than 100 years old.
What will it be? Stay tuned to find out.