Lost Souls – Poppy Z. Brite
Penguin – 1994 (first published 1992)
I had no idea what this book was going to be about when I bought it. I was a bit disappointed once I realised it was about vampires, but I was already too far in to consider switching to something else.
It turned out to be far gayer (it’s absolutely full of dudes kissing dudes) and far more goth than I was expecting, but I actually really liked it.
Lost Souls ticks all of the necessary boxes for it to be classified as Gothic literature. I know wikipedia isn’t authoritative by any means, but it currently lists the following as the defining elements of Gothic fiction:
|Virginal maiden – “young, beautiful, pure, innocent, kind, virtuous and sensitive. Usually starts out with a mysterious past and it is later revealed that she is the daughter of an aristocratic or noble family.”||Nothing, the mysterious teenager is revealed to be the son of a Vampire. He’s virginal in the sense that he has not yet drank blood.|
|Hero||Ghost, the sensitive, caring weirdo is undoubtedly the hero of this story.|
|Tyrant/villain/evil characters||Zillah is a classic Gothic villain, absolutely self-absorbed and evil.|
|Bandits/ruffians||Zillah’s two goons, Twig and Molochai.|
|The setting – “The plot is usually set in a castle, an abbey, a monastery, or some other, usually religious edifice, and it is acknowledged that this building has secrets of its own. This gloomy and frightening scenery sets the scene for what the audience has already come to expect. “||Most of the book is set in New Orleans graveyards, dingy, dimly lit rock concerts, and an archaic magic shop.|
|Night journeys||Ghost and Steve do an awful lot of driving at night, the vampires also.|
|Madness||The vampire’s bloodlust/Steve’s lack of self control|
|Miraculous survivals||Christian survives being shot in the chest. Zillah recovers from a baseball-bat smashed face.|
Lost Souls is clearly a Gothic novel, but more noticeably, it’s a goth novel. I use the word “goth” here in the teenage Skinny Puppy fan sense of the word. The book takes its title from its hero’s angsty, mystical rock band, and I think all of the other characters in the book have long, dyed-black hair.
Lost Souls is exactly the kind of book that these kids would read.
The protagonist of the book is 15 years old, and his name is Nothing. He cuts himself and runs away from home because his parents don’t understand him… I found the 32 year old part of me cringing occasionally while reading through this, but my inner angsty teenager loved every page.
Lost Souls is a pretty cool book, quite a few steps above some of the modern horror I’ve reviewed here recently. I look forward to reading more of Poppy Z. Brite’s books in the future.