Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Review of "Saying Goodbye to the Sun" by David McAfee

We’ve all been there, haven’t we gentlemen?  You see her in some social setting, a bar, a party, a church social (if that’s your thing), and you just know.  That has to be the one.  The one you’ve been searching for without realizing it.  And you build up enough confidence to say a few words to her, and the words with which she responds seal it for you forever.  You can’t imagine being with anyone else.  You talk, you dance, you share your stories.  As your relationship progresses, you feel yourself being changed into someone different, unlocking potential and at the same time locking away parts of yourself forever.  For most of us, this transformation is a metaphorical one.  For Vincent Walker, protagonist and narrator of Saying Goodbye to the Sun, the transformation means eternal life accompanied by the soul-consuming thirst for blood.
David McAfee has built a well-defined vampire mythology with his tales of the Bachyir race.  In terms of story chronology, the events of Saying Goodbye to the Sun occur some 2,000 years later than those in McAfee’s very popular 33 A.D. (the story is set in the oddly specific time frame of 1986…uh, A.D.) but was actually written a good deal earlier.  McAfee reveals this in a brief author’s note at the beginning of the book, and knowing it going in allows the reader to see some of the work put in to develop the Bachyir world and its chief inhabitants that a lot of us first encountered in 33 A.D.  The character of Ramah in particular, little more than a cameo in 33 A.D., is deepened considerably as a veteran vampire with a crisis of faith.
Told in first person from Vincent’s perspective, the story follows his rather accidental and impromptu—and as it turns out, forbidden—turning by his new found love, Raine.  As he grapples with his new needs, powers, and limitations, he crosses paths with several others connected to Raine.  These encounters with others of his kind are complicated by the fact that he has no idea what it happening to him, until he becomes acquainted with the Council of Thirteen.  The Council assigns him the mission of finding Raine, who has fled both to avoid punishment for turning Vincent, and to protect him from further damage.  Accompanying him is Anna, a vampire who will serve as his teacher and babysitter, and also as a warning of what becomes to those who defy the Council’s wishes.
By the author’s own admission, this book was written before he truly “knew how to write.”  And in some ways this is apparent in the book.  Vincent as a character seems to lurch about as the story progresses, prone to sudden childish outbursts at the worst of times.  His inability to absorb what has happened to him becomes just a bit irritating as the story goes on and it becomes obvious to pretty much everyone else that he’s no longer Vincent Walker, good-natured slacker.  He is also prone to long and sometimes repetitive inner monologues which occasionally drag the story to a halt until he’s finished chewing on whatever is bothering him.  But setting this aside, the relationships between the characters, including the multi-layered intrigues permeating the Council, drive the story in an utterly believable way.  Vincent’s love and longing for Raine is palpable throughout Saying Goodbye to the Sun, and lends the somewhat indefinite conclusion more impact than it might have held.
Grade: 4/5 stars

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