(Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie JUL 15, 2005)
Molochai, Twig and Zillah, three androgynous Goth vagabonds all resembling rock stars, roll into New Orleans ready for Mardi Gras. Drunk on Chartreuse, their mouths full of candy, they make their way to a tiny bar with stained glass windows in the French Quarter. CHRISTIANS says the sign above the door. Christian, the bartender and owner, is a four hundred year-old vampire. Molochai, Twig and Zillah, younger by a few centuries, are also vampires. A thin adolescent girl, pretty Jessy, had long been waiting for the three, or their like. Her dream is to become one of them. She doesn't get her wish though. Unlike the myths, vampires are not made by a bite from the undead. They are born, just like humans. Impregnations are few and far between, and the women who carry them in their wombs, (frequently human women), usually die in childbirth. Bad lead vamp Zillah, with the gorgeous green eyes, takes a special liking to Jessy. After the evening is over, he leaves her alive and carrying his child.
Fast forward fifteen years, Zillah and Jessy's son, "Nothing," is living with his adoptive parents in a Maryland suburb, wondering why he feels so different from everyone else. Alienated and terribly lonely, he runs away from home and is picked-up hitching by the ever wandering Zillah, Twig and Molochai. Now he's found! Lost Souls chronicles his decline into his father's world and the inevitable loss of his soul. The three vamp sidekicks spend their lives going from place to place - seeing everything - cities and countryside, drinking blood from various sources, leaving scenes of carnage behind, and then turning around and beginning again - taking different routes which lead them back to the same cities. Drunk and/or drugged, these dark hedonists always come out unscathed, unlike their victims. Now they head for Missing Mile, NC, the home of Nothing's favorite musicians, the Lost Souls.
Steve and Ghost are the vocalist and guitarist who make-up the Lost Souls. Nothing loves them, although he has never met them - he has only listened to their sound on tape. Ghost, the grandson of a backwoods' wise woman was born with a caul over his face. Ethereal in body and spirit, he is gifted with the sight, and is a truly decent human being - a man with soul. Steve, on the other hand has a ways to go before he becomes a mensch. As to the state of his soul - it's still up in the air. The musicians meet-up with the preternatural cohorts in a club in Missing Mile, where Nothing at last gets to meet his idols.
Ghost and Steve want to save Nothing from himself and, ultimately, his fate. Steve's former girlfriend, Ann, winds up on the road with the monsters, pursued by our rock star heroes. The battle for the lost souls reaches its dramatic finale when Ms. Brite brings everyone together in The Big Easy.
I was surprised at the quality of Poppy Brite's writing. It's good! Don't ask me why I expected otherwise. Her narrative is taut and her descriptive passages are at times lyrical, and always original. Her weakness lies in her characters' development. They are one dimensional. Ghost is wonderful, all goodness and light - but too angelic to be real. He is the shining heart of the novel. Steve, who is almost always on drugs and booze, is never really developed, although we get a sense that he is salvageable. And the vampires are dark cartoon-type characters - but maybe that's how vampires are supposed to be. They, and the vampire wannabe groupies, are all pale as corpses and dress in black, with black lipstick and mascara - a la Goth.
Poppy Brite paints a picture of today's society through Goth eyes - surreal to say the least. If you're a fan of horror fiction, (the kind with gore and violence), or are into the funky and unusual, Lost Souls merits your attention. I enjoyed it very much .
- Amazon readers rating: from 231 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Lost Souls (1992)
- Drawing Blood (1993)
- Wormwood: Stories (1994)
- Exquisite Corpse (1996)
- Are You Loathsome Tonight?: Stories (1998)
- Seed of Lost Souls (1999)
- Plastic Jesus (2000)
- The Devil You Know: Stories (2003)
- Triads (2004) (co-author Christa Faust)
- D*U*C*K (January 2007)
- Antediluvian Tales (November 2007)
- Second Line: Two Short Novels of Love and Cooking in New Orleans (October 2009)
- Guilty but Insane (2001)
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- Official web site for Poppy Z. Brite
- Wikipedia on Poppy Z. Brite
- Bookslut interview with Poppy Z. Brite
- Spike Magazine look at Exquisite Corpse
- Rambles review of Lost Souls
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About the Author:
Poppy Z. Brite was born in New Orleans in 1967. She learned to read by the age of three and before she could write she was recording stories into tape recorders. Her parents split up when she was six; she moved with her mother to Chapel Hill, North Carolina but came back to New Orleans for visits. She has written seriously since she was twelve and sold her first story at the age of 18. When approached by Stephen King's biographer, Douglas Winter, asking if she had a novel in the works, she dropped out of college and began to working on Lost Souls.
She and her husband, Chris De Barr, live in an old house in Uptown New Orleans, Louisiana.