Friday, June 19, 2009

The Poison Eaters by Holly Black

I wasn't going to blog about this for another few months, since it's not going on sale until February, but Holly Black's new book The Poison Eaters has had me on the edge of my chair since the subway ride to work 3 hours ago, and it keeps pulsing in my head like a vein about to aneurysm -- it's that mercilessly good. The first story, "The Coldest Girl in Coldtowm," is kind of about vampires, but they're more like zombies. They're bloodthirsty, teeth-baring, flesh-chomping...which is actually what vampires used to be like, back in the Old World.

I almost always hate short stories. Short stories that are plot-based ignore the main character. Short stories that are character-based are almost exclusively the domain of characters stumbling around in search of a plot. Here, character and plot are suffused, and there's a hyperactive emotional terseness that creeps up on you and freezes you in place. This happens the exact moment that we learn the truth about vampirism in this world -- it's transmitted by blood, but it doesn't take hold of its victim until she tastes blood herself:

It took eighty-eight days for the venom to sweat out a person's pores. She only had thirty-seven to go. Thirty-seven days to stay so drunk that she could ignore the buzz in her head that made her want to bite, rend, devour.

Aaah. In the first three pages, our perception of the main character switches from a slut to lovesick to cold, calculating, a kind of teen goth-girl Artful Dodger in fishnets. And that's just the setup. The execution is...well, an execution.

Can I tell you how much I can't wait to finish the rest of this book?

There. I just did. February be damned.

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