Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Society of S by Susan Hubbard

The Society of S seems a rather unassuming, maybe slightly mysterious title to start off the Ethical Vampire series. Yes, ethical vampires, and you must be thinking uh oh here is another story about vampires with feelings. It is also a teenage vampire coming of age story. And there may be something about vegetarian vampires, too? Hold the groans and the glitter. It is these and more.

Ariella Montero is not exactly your typical girl next door. Hidden away in Saratoga Springs, she lives a sheltered life with her father who is a researcher of sorts (bloodwork). She is on a restricted diet, taking medication for anemia and possibly lupus. Her father homeschools her, providing a classical education: science, literature, philosophy, history, mathematics, and the languages. Their lives are overshadowed by the mystery of her father's tragic love story, his secrets, and her mother's disappearance. That is the pattern of their lives into her early teens when things start changing. It is a combination of Ariella's growing up, her curiosity about her past and herself, and her housekeeper persuading her father to let Ariella see more of life outside her home and see other people, especially those her own age. She realizes how unusual her upbringing is and starts to wonder why. Her questions eventually lead her on a trek from New York down to the South.

So, how do vampires fit in? You know it is there; it is even in the book's own summary, but Susan Hubbard introduces it in bits at a time. It becomes one of Ariella's mysteries to solve and part of her search for understanding who she is. She assembles pieces of it, from vampire movies, to Google searches, and even some limited information from her father. Apparently, the information out there tends to be inaccurate, so this novel is Ariella's way of telling the world the "truth" about vampires. Vampires are found in all levels of society. With the wider range of vampires, there are different sects with their own views on how vampires should live, from the those with the well-known humans are food attitude to the more environmentally conscious Sanguinists who believe it is possible to coexist with humans without taking human blood and others in between.

This take on vampires is different and intriguing. Another thing that sets this book apart from other vampire stories is the civilized and eloquent tone this story is told in and the lyrical language it is written in, and that makes it such a pleasure to just read. Hubbard adds an interesting touch with references to Edgar Allen Poe with discussions of his works and tying in his history. It is refreshingly different from the usual rampaging bloodsucker tales or the melodramatic teen romances. It helps that Ariella's father emphasizes correctness and reason, which influences her behavior and perspective and gives her a unique voice in the narration of her tale. Her mother's heritage is not neglected either, as Ariella and her mother can see letters and words in colors, adding another dimension to their characters and the story. Hubbard handles the mysteries of Ariella's heritage, her father's secrets, her mother's disappearance, and, later on, the the prominence of vampires in society with a deft touch, interconnecting them in Ariella's ongoing efforts to understand who she is, what she is, and what she will be.

Look for The Society of S in the VBPL Catalog. If you enjoyed this one, then you may want to read the sequel, The Year of Disappearances. If you are looking for other vampire tales not in the usual vein, try Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian or Barbara Hambly's Those Who Hunt the Night.

No comments: