I once read a trilogy by Kevin J Anderson set in the Star Wars universe. It was so bad he became, briefly, known as Kevin J AllBran, as he irritated the, well, you know, out of me. He redeemed himself, and then some, with his amazing work with Brian Herbert on the Dune prequels. And other works. But oy, that Star Wars was rough.
This may make the last of him, though. In The Vampire Circus, Mr. Kierkegaard has once again delivered an intriguing story idea executed in an exceedingly poor fashion.
Set in 1923, The Vampire Circus is the story of one Johnny Durango, recently released from prison for murdering the members of a traveling circus some 20 years earlier. The circus, he maintains, killed his family (among others), and were vampires. So there’s that. He is met by Wyatt Earp, hangs out for a time in Tom Mix’s western town, and plots how to finish the job of killing the titular circus.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a young vampire hunter is learning the trade from his uncle, a priest; a French detective is having to look into the murders of some individuals who are fairly sharp of tooth, and a pair of sisters are reunited. There is also a vampire running about in the background, but he honestly isn’t up to much yet.
Insert some sex, betrayal, sexual betrayal, and you have the book.
And that’s the problem. I get that you can’t give it all away in the first of what looks to be a trilogy. Nor would I ask you to. However, while there is action, and enough movement to avoid stagnation, that’s kinda it. There is not much more to be happening – nothing ties up, nothing is really established, and there is no circus. Really. The circus exists, at this time, in flashback only.
I would be happier if there was no circus at all, and it was pure metaphor for the characters being manipulated by the single vampire in the story. But that does not seem to be where Kierkegaard is headed.
Like his other books, there is a sense of true amazement being just out of reach. Perhaps less sex – the sex in this one is very oddly not believable – and more focus on making the book read better would help. The idea – that is good, solid, and seems like it was thought out. The execution just isn’t up to it.
I also have some issues with the lack of research here. A quick spat of Wikisearching and some Google-fu cleared it up for me, I wish Kierkegaard had bothered. These are pretty simple:
- Durango’s pistol is a Colt .45, not Colts. The company was founded by Sam Colt. As an aside, that phrasing is usually a reference to the M1911 automatic, the classic ‘Colt .45’ service pistol. Which was released while Durango was in prison, so he couldn’t have one to give back to him. Before this, the most likely pistol to be called a ‘Colt .45’ would have been the Colt Single Action Army, released in 1873, or the M1878 revolver. Those seem to be the only .45 handguns produced by Colt prior to the 1911.
- The partner of the Sundance Kid was Butch Cassidy not ‘Casaday’.
- $12,000,000 in 1923 is about $166,000,000 today, more than enough to live several lives on. Very little that couldn’t buy in 1923 or now. In fact, that’s more than half the cost of a South Dakota class battleship, which clocked in at $21 million.
I could also get into the lack of serial feeling in this ‘classic serial novel’. But that feels like kicking a down horse. Overall, the story was interesting in concept, but not good in execution. The ideas behind the book were superb, and poorly executed. Perhaps a co-author?