Book Review: Krimson by Thomas Emson

Hi all…

Vampires. In popular media today, vampires are more about masquerading as human in a human world than ripping your throat out and guzzling blood directly from your jugular vein with no pretense of any remaining humanity. These days, the word “vampire” tends to evoke images of wan, whiny teenagers or Civil War-era Louisiana gentlemen more than “cold blooded killers.”

Author Thomas Emson is working to change that. First with Skarlet in 2009 and now with the follow-up Krimson, Emson is embracing the monster in the vampire myth and providing hooks to thousands of years of history. And like the majority of human history, not all the monsters are inhuman. Sometimes it takes power-mad humans to resurrect the past even if they don’t quite understand the consequences of their actions…

In Skarlet, we were introduced to a modern-day London, England on the brink of change. A small group of men and women with bloodlines stretching back thousands of years have brought a drug to London’s youth. Distributed at a dance club called Religion, those who take the drug die and are reborn as vampiric killing machines with an unquenchable thirst for blood. One man – Iraqi war vet Jake Lawton – working as a bouncer at the club is drawn into this nightmare nobody can accept and fights against the monsters with a few companions he gains along the way.

What I loved about the first book was the use of multiple story lines from different eras of history. Emson incorporates the conquering of Babylon by Alexander the Great and battles between the Ottoman Turks and the British army in the 1920s alongside the Iraq War we’re still trying to finish and the modern day. Weaving in an alternate history based on real events made this a much more tangible tale to dive into.

Now with Krimson, the second book in the Vampire Trinity series, the story picks up three years later after the events of Skarlet. Jake is still fighting the good fight, but he’s getting tired. You can only go so long without sleep. And those left alive in positions of power in England are hunting him day and night, so his paranoia isn’t just due to exhaustion. He and his warrior woman Aaliyah have done damage to the vampire cause, but it’s like putting fingers in a dam about to burst – it’s impossible to cover all the cracks.

And like Skarlet, Emson does an amazing job of working an alternate history into the mix. This time it’s ancient Babylon and the time of Dracula in the mid-1400s. And though I wasn’t as surprised by the Babylon links this time around, I was very intrigued in how the Dracula myths were brought in. Again, the history set the stage for the events in the present day and was seamlessly integrated into what started in that first book.

After reading Zombie Brittanica, I was a bit concerned that Emson had lost his touch. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The first half of Krimson sets the stage and offers enough background that readers new to the series should have no problems diving in. For me, the action really didn’t get going until about the half-way mark. At that point it was as though a switch was thrown and we were in free fall to the end. All the characters of the first book are back and we start to see their individual threads get resolved one by one…

I can hardly wait for Kardinal, the conclusion of the trilogy, to be released in another year or two. Can Jake and his friends survive? Only Emson himself knows until the book is released!

If you want a taste of the book, be sure to check out the first three chapters at Thomas Emson’s website. Unfortunately US rights haven’t yet been sold, but you can order via Amazon and other retailers through international wholesalers!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up these books at Amazon below!

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Mid-week Links

Hey there…

Ok… I’ve seen enough weird news this week to warrant a few comments about some of the things going on in the movie business…

First, La Femme Nikita is back? Again? Let’s hope it’s more like Luc Besson‘s original starring Anne Parillaud or the series on USA starring Peta Wilson. Evidently McG’s involved and in this version (reportedly to air on The CW), Nikita will go rogue and a new assassin will be trained to replace her. Isn’t it odd that they’d call the series La Femme Nikita if she’s not the lead character? Read more at ComingSoon.net.

Next, it’s good to know that Guy Ritchie isn’t afraid to continue the good thing he started with Sherlock Holmes and Robert Downey, Jr. According to multiple sources (ComingSoon.net, FirstShowing.net and The Examiner) his Lobo (DC Comics) movie has been shelved for now and they’re ramping up to work on a script and pre-production for the Holmes sequel. Brad Pitt is rumored to be Moriarty, which should be quite interesting. Pitt as an evil, brilliant villain? Hmmm… (Update: Evidently this rumor has been squashed about Brad as Moriarty, so we’ll see who actually gets to play that role…)

And Michael Bay, king of explosions, is apparently scouting for locations for Transformers 3. The last one wasn’t bad enough? I’m hoping they return to the simpler plot of the first movie, which had me cheering by the end as a popcorn movie. Guess we’ll find out in July 2011. A bit more at ComingSoon.net

Lastly, in the “Please no, say it ain’t so” category, we have rumors of Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator: Salvation) going for the role of Dracula in a new movie about the first vampire. (At least he’s not a teenager…) For me, the last good Dracula was Gary Oldman… and before that Bela Lugosi. Worthington would need to age about 30 years before I’d even consider him for a role like that… Latino Review, MTV, ScreenRant… Everyone’s talking about it and saying the same thing – say it ain’t so!!

That’s it for now… More the next time I have a chance to pull my head out of the sand…

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up a few of these great DVDs!

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DVD Review: Vampire Princess (Documentary)

Hi all!

Recently released on DVD and shown on the Smithsonian Channel, Vampire Princess provides an alternate background to one of Halloween’s most celebrated citizens… Dracula!

The documentary begins with an archaeological dig in the Czech Republic in the town of Cesky Krumlov near Schwarzenberg Castle. A team of archaeologists discovers a grave containing the remains of 11 people. All but three of the individuals were buried in the traditional Christian east-west position. But the other three have been buried with their bodies in a north-south position. More than that, one was found decapitated with its head between its legs, a stone between its jaws, and all limbs were pinned down by heavy rocks. As if that wasn’t enough, the body had also been staked through the heart and a rosary had been used to tie the hands together.

Rainer Koppl is a media studies professor at Vienna University who studies the origins of vampire myths. The burial with the head removed, stone between the jaws, and the limbs pinned down, is a traditional handling of someone suspected of vampirism in the 18th century. A vampire scare during that time period led to many buried bodies being desecrated in such a way.

The discovery at Cesky Krumlov was the first archaeological evidence of the widespread vampire panic in the 18th century. Staking the heart of a suspected vampire, decapitating them, and then placing the skull between the legs with a stone between the jaws, all ensured that the corpse wouldn’t be able to chew or replace the head on the neck and rise from the grave. A rosary tied the hands and heavy stones weighed down the limbs as further preventative measures. All of these procedures were documented in Bram Stoker‘s 18th century novel Dracula.

Commoners weren’t the only ones fascinated by vampires in this time period. Even scientists and officials bought into the myths. It wasn’t until late in the 18th century that the age of reason caught up with and began explaining the vampirism traits, such as bloating in the grave, fresh blood leeching to the surface, and blubbering noises made by escaping gasses.

Originally in the Dracula story from Bram Stoker, he wanted to start the novel with a vampire attack at the tomb of an Austrian princess. In the scene, Jonathan Harker approached a grave only to see the princess rise from the grave. A quote on the tomb leads to Bohemia and a poem about a woman, Lenore, grieving her husband who came back as a vampire.

Digging through the Schwarzenberg Castle archives, which stretch across 6 miles of shelves. Most of the documents haven’t been examined, but they cover centuries worth of activities in the castle. Koppl discovers records of Eleanore von Scharzenberg.

The documentary traces the path that the professor followed, tracking down information about this real 18th century bohemian princess named Eleonore von Scharzenberg who was suspected of vampirism. She died in 1741, wasted and pale from a mysterious illness and with very unusual behavior before her death.

Eleanore was a big hunter at the time, but wolves, which were shot on sight in most places, were on her “do not shoot” list. She raised wolves and drank their milk as a way to enhance her fertility, as she had been unable to have a child during her marriage as an heir. At age 41, she gave birth to a son — it had been worth the risk, even though it was considered either a miracle or witchcraft. Wolves were associated with the devil and evil, so even though Eleanore did eventually bear a son, the howls from the castle as the wolves were milked ensured that the princess wasn’t helping her image among the people.

After her husband’s death in a hunting accident, she began suffering from an unknown affliction. She used all sorts of odd, expensive homeopathic remedies and occult practices to try and manage her pain. Many of the odd treatments used were fanciful medications, such as crayfish eyes and unicorn horn, which were all early homeopathic remedies and magical potions. These obsessions must have further damaged her reputation among the nobility.

It’s thought, based on written evidence, that she suffered from porphyria, which gave her the appearance of a vampire. She was extremely sensitive to light, giving her a pale, shrunken appearance. And as if that painful affliction wasn’t enough – during the autopsy after her death, she may have also had a large tumor in her abdomen.

Though the family crypt was in Vienna, she had her body interred back in Cesky Kumlov at the church. Her burial place was discovered inside the church, under a heavy tombstone and under a layer of concrete.

Were these burial precautions because she too wondered about vampirism? Was this woman the origin of the vampire myths? Did she inspire Bram Stoker?

It’s a very intriguing documentary, with a great deal of information and historical re-enactment. Narrated by Brad Abelle, this 52 minute film is an informative work from the Smithsonian Channel just in time for Halloween. Though there really were no extras on the DVD, it has some promos for other Smithsonian series that look very intriguing.

Check Vampire Princess out on the Smithsonian Channel or on DVD!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up Vampire Princess and Bram Stoker’s Dracula at Amazon!

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