Thursday, 14 June 2007

The Becoming by Jeanne C. Stein


Anna Strong is a bounty hunter. After she and her partner are attacked, she awakens in the hospital to find things are much worse than she imagined - she's become a vampire. With the help of Dr. Avery (a vampire physician who treated her after her attack) she struggles to find her way in this new world she's stumbled into.

I must note here that the story uses two of my least favourite vampire devices. The vampires don't breathe - how are they talking? And they don't cast reflections. The problem I have with this is it almost seems that sooner or later there is going to be an inevitable slip up. Onto the review...

Anna is a flawed but feisty heroine. Initially I felt distant from her rather than drawn into her world. I did spend some time trying to work out if the story is written in present tense, but my grammar sucks so I'm still not sure. But there's definitely something about the narration that took some getting used to. Back to Anna - she has a tendency to react to a situation rather than think and act - a bit like a 'bull in a china shop'. This made me wonder how she coped as a bounty hunter if this is the way she behaves under pressure. She seems to charge from one unfortunate situation to the next - the attack, arson victim, kidnapping, murder. I don't believe she's TSTL, you can lay a lot of her responses at having to deal with a huge change in her life in a very short amount of time. But I think this excuse will only hold up for the first book in the series.

In some ways this story reminded me of The Turning by Jennifer Armintrout, only without as much gore. And instead of having to choose between two vampires, Anna has to decide what/who she's going to believe and ultimately what action will she take once she knows the truth.

Dr. Avery is well written and you can see why Anna is drawn to him – to the point where she retcons her relationship with Max because it’s convenient for her to do so. Not one of her more attractive moments, and there are points in the story where she does behave in a selfish manner.(This is where the story worked better than The Turning for me - as a reader it was somewhat difficult to find Cyrus attractive, whereas Avery's faults are not immediately apparent.) How much of this is to do with her vampirism is unclear. But I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

The main problem Anna has is that everyone around her is playing a more manipulative game. They know the rules but only tell her either a) the minimum amount she needs to know or b) the minimum amount they want her to know - which may or may not be the truth. So who can Anna trust?

It's these subtle games that the other characters (Max, Avery, Casper, Culebra) are playing that lift this story and make it much more interesting. How much does Max really know? What is the favour that Anna owes Culebra? Who is Casper and what does he want? It is written in a very tight first person and it gets to the point where as a reader you mistrust everybodys motives. So thumbs up there. :)

We are left with a few dangling plot threads. The one I was most intrigued by being Avery and Williams reference to Anna as 'The One'. The one what is never made clear.

With the first major obstacle of her vampire life removed I hope in the next book of the series Anna is a more decisive protagonist who makes better choices and learns from her mistakes.

Book 2 Blood Drive is released July 2007


Naomi said...

I'm very wary of both vampire books and any story which features a "The One." I think it's in serious danger of becoming trite.

Would you recomment this to someone who's weary of vampires as sex objects, but for whom Jennifer Armintrout is an auto-buy?

LesleyW said...

Not if you're looking for someone who writes in the style of/similar to Jennifer Armintrout.

I think comparing The Turning (which I thought I'd posted my review of and haven't) and The Becoming. The Turning is much more in your face, with an underlying sense of humour - thinking of Nathan. The Becoming is more subtle and sneaky, and I think takes itself a little more seriously. I've been trying to think of an analogy. The vampires in The Turning were like slasher killers - Cyrus would literally rip the heart out of your chest.In The Becoming it's more sociopathic. On the surface they appear relatively normal but underneath it's not pretty. (Though it's possible in TB that there are good vampires).

For some really creepy, no sex vampires. Greywalker by Kat Richardson has one of the creepiest scenes with a vampire I've read. I reviewed that in April, but possibly didn't mention the vampires because they weren't the main focus of the story.

'The One' thing, is something which I think will be picked up in a future book. It's mentioned a couple of times here, but we never find out what it means. It could all be a hoax.

If you're weary of vampires as sex objects it might not be for you. Even though there isn't that much sex - what they do have is fantastic because they're vampires. It's one of the benefits of being undead. :) But the scenes aren't long and drawn out, and there's no mooning after male vampires.

jepad said...

As a complete aside:

I'm looking forward to what you have to say about The Turning. I was unimpressed. Many of the heroine's actions left me disturbed and seriously disliking her.

LesleyW said...

Jepad - Have to admit that I enjoyed it, though I thought it was flawed.

My review will be hopefully be up very shortly.