Posts Tagged ‘The Society of S’

How do you like your vampires? Southern and sexy and dripping with true blood, courtesy of Charlaine Harris and HBO? What about the soul-sucking virals who jump out of trees in the post-apocalyptic world of Justin Cronin’s The Passage? Or maybe the romantic tortured teens of Twilight, The Vampire Diaries and Vampire Academy?

My inner-Buffy finds entertainment in all of them. But I also love the bite of the literary living dead, as in Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and Robin McKinley’s Sunshine. So count me among the fans of Central Floridian Susan Hubbard’s secretive ethical vampires, who drink the blood-substitute wine Picardo, slather on the sunscreen, worry about the environment, and use their immortal powers (telepathy, invisibility) sparingly.  They are doctors, scientists, teachers, writers, entrepreneurs, students and, yes, politicians.  Vamps like us, only better looking because they don’t age.

That’s a serious problem for Ariella Montero, first introduced in 2007’s The Society of S, who as a young teen in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., discovers her father is a vampire, a respected member of the Sanguinist sect. As for Ari’s mother Sara, she was a human who vanished when Ari was born. Where is she now? Who is she now? And, for that matter, who is Ari — vampire or human or hybrid? Who will she become?

Ari’s quest for her mother and her identity takes her on a risky road trip to the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida that includes a hurricane and a fire. Hubbard, who teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida, crafts a suspenseful, compelling coming-of-age tale like no other. The story continues in 2008’s The Year of Disappearances, when, after the mysterious murder of a schoolmate,  Ari departs the Homosassa Springs vampire community for a small college in Georgia. But then another girl vanishes, and there’s an uptick in drug abuse. The latter might explain why some people are acting like  zombies. But who’s the menacing stranger in the van? Why did the bees disappear? Spooky.

And now there’s Hubbard’s new book, The Season of Risks, which offers paranormal thrills even as it delves deeply into cultural values and societal issues. Charismatic Neil Cameron, Ari’s romantic interest, is running as a viable third-party Presidential candidate. Viable in that his progressive, pro-environment platform has wide appeal. But his thirty-something looks are deceiving; he’s a centuries-old vampire. The age gap between him and Ari, who appears about 15, means they can’t be together in public, unless the Nebulist sect of vampires, not as ethical as the Sanguinists, convince Ari to take the age-accelerating drug Septimal. She goes to a Miami clinic, and when she wakes up, she has become a sophisticated 22-year-old with an internship at a social-networking firm. Who is this new Ari?

Hubbard’s well-written, intricately plotted novels might seem seem far-fetched, and, yes, vampire politics can be confusing. But she has  grounded her tales in cutting-edge scientific research on diseases of the blood, substance abuse, the mysteries of aging.  Depicting the difficulties of assimilation versus isolationism, and the conflicting emotions of her characters, she has — forgive the pun — staked out a provocative place in a crowded genre.

Long live the ethical vampires!

Open Book: Susan Hubbard was my friend years before she wrote The Society of S and we discovered our mutual interest in vampire lit. Obviously, I have copies of all three books (Simon and Schuster), and I’m in the acknowledgements of The Year of Disappearances and The Season of Risks because I read draft versions of both books in manuscript.  So I could be biased.  Now you know.

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