Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Opposite of Life by Narrelle M Harris

The Opposite of Life by Narrelle M Harris is the author's first published novel starring Lissa and Gary. I recently reviewed its sequel, Walking Shadows. I have to warn you, this review is coming from the position of having read the second book first and I can't avoid comparing the two.
Lissa Wilson has seen more than enough death in her family, so when people start being savagely killed whenever she has a night out in Melbourne with her beautiful new boyfriend, she’s determined to investigate and to make the killing stop. Even when she realises the murders must be the work of a vampire.

Things had been looking up for this librarian and 21st century geekgirl, but the murders make her remember why she prefers books to people. People leave you. People can die.

She finds herself teaming up with the painfully awkward Gary to get to the undead heart of the matter. But there are more challenges in store than Gary’s appalling fashion sense.

The Opposite of Life introduces Lissa and Gary and the vampires of Melbourne. It's a somewhat darker book than Walking Shadows. There's a lot more death in it — the story centres around a series of murders and Lissa has the poor fortune to discover several of the bodies. The associated trauma, of course, leads her to be somewhat less than chipper and besides that she has a lot of other emotional baggage to come to terms with. And since Lissa meets Gary for the first time part way through the book, there's less opportunity for entertaining interactions between them. I liked that in Walking Shadows they were well established as friends.

The vampire mythos in Harris's world is refreshing in not being overly romanticised. Vampires don't feel much because they're dead. Their brains also don't work as well and they get firmly entrenched in old habits. Modern technology has made it harder for them to not draw attention to themselves and so they're not generally inclined to run around killing people willy-nilly (any more).

Harris juxtaposes the numb emotions of the vampires with humans, mostly various members of Lissa's family, who don't want to feel any more and deal with it using more conventional means (drugs, alcohol, etc). It is the appeal of not feeling which is the lure to vampirism for some of the characters in this story, not just eternal life and youth, but the promise that it will hurt less to live an undead life. An interesting notion and not one that comes up too often in vampire fiction. Not that there aren't a lot of jaded vampires around, but often they're that way thanks to their longevity.

I enjoyed The Opposite of Life quite a bit and I look forward to reading more Lissa and Gary stories in the future. I enjoyed Walking Shadows a bit more, though, mainly because it was cheerier and caused more laughs. I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for less conventional vampire fiction. An excellent panacea for the reader sick of Edward Cullens and (YA-ified) Lestats.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2007, Pulp Fiction Press
Series: Lissa and Gary, book 1 of ? (two so far)
Format read: ePub on my iThings
Source: Booki.sh, who have recently started allowing publishers to sell DRM free ePub files as well as their existing read in the cloud thing
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

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