There is a rather chic monster populating – or maybe overpopulating – popular culture these days. It sucks the blood of unfortunate victims, sometimes killing, and sometimes turning the victim into another monster like itself. Lauren Owen has produced The Quick and released it into this popular culture, and taken a very different tack with her subject.
This novel presents a handful of lives affected by the unwilling conversion of a Victorian London man into one of these monsters. It deals with the pain and confusion of being thus transformed, and with the guilt, fear, and hopelessness of those he once loved. If you want some hope from these ghastly and gruesome events, you won’t find it here. The man transformed – we don’t encounter the ‘v-word’ before we’re past the first-quarter mark of the book – cannot help what he has become, and so cannot help the famished and murderous way he feels. And so his devoted sister tries to help, ultimately to no avail.
That is the story. The whole thing is fanciful, obviously, and atmospheric to a fault. It is simply a dark book from beginning to end: many scenes are nighttime scenes because of vampires’ hatred of the sun and light; even daytime scenes are smudged with 19th-century London’s famous fog. But more than that, this story completely lacks hope. There are two classes of vampire in London at the time: one is an elite club of wealthy andpowerful gentlemen, who voluntarily gave up living for the rewards of the un-dead life. The other are famous London street urchins, poor, vicious, lawless. And this is actually one of the interesting points here – there is class division and strife even among inhuman monsters.
Ultimately I can’t see my way to recommending this book. Its descriptions of the psychological and physiological changes occurring in newly-turned vampires are interesting – a different take on some popular fancies, but really that is not enough to save this book.