In this modern age of sparkly, lovesick vampires who just want to assimilate with the human population and/or subsist on bottled synthetic blood (serve at 98.6 F for optimum flavor!), it is sometimes oddly refreshing to turn back to earlier perceptions. The vampires in William Meikle’s Eldren: The Book of the Dark have no such effete ambitions—they simply wish to feed and multiply the old fashioned way.
Meikle does a very good job of generating a brisk story, set in the downtrodden Scottish town of Finsburgh in the present day, with a biblically inspired mythological origin for the vampire race. The titular book is scriptural account of God’s creation of the vampire race—the Eldren—and the trials and tribulations that have led them to their current status as creatures of the night consumed by a thirst for blood. The town is in for more than economic trouble when a young boy unwittingly awakens one of the most powerful of the Eldren, imprisoned in a forgotten cellar for hundreds of years. Soon the whole town becomes a hunting ground, and not just for blood. Meikle’s vampires multiply in the way that used to be standard in these stories…simply by biting, a victim is in danger of being turned. This is actually an interesting plot device that adds the element of the ticking clock to the action. The heroes must stop the evil before the entire town is consumed by the thirst that shows no distinction between man, woman, or child.
A common theme of “outlander” seems to connect the eventual protagonists, a subtle prod at the dynamics of small town culture. Tony, the boy who started the mess in the first place, did so as a way of impressing his friends, and as a bit of escapism from his abusive family life. A pair of teachers who have each come to the town as their own way of running away from previous life trials also play an important—and unconventional—role in the story. And finally, a Van Helsing-like character considered insane by most of British society has come to the town, drawn by familiar newspaper reports of animal mutilations and other strange occurrences. He brings with him the firepower and the soul-consuming hatred to fight the plague, but it’s the story behind this hatred that makes him a compelling and relatable character.
Despite the pleasure I took from the fast paced story, I dropped the book to 4 stars simply for the editing. While there weren’t any massive problems, there were fairly regular misspellings that are distracting and tiresome. Most were of the type that spell check doesn’t catch (‘in’ when what the sentence requires is ‘it’, and the like).
The editing definitely should not dissuade the reader of horror fiction from checking out Eldren, however. A rerelease of the book with the errors cleaned up would easily gain that fifth star from me.
Grade: 4/5 stars