Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider

Title: Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider
Author: Ellen C. Maze
Genre: Judeo/Christian Vampire
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Price: $17.95
Pages: 354
ISBN: 978-1432751012
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

What if your bestselling novel attracts the wrong kind of attention?

In the prologue we are introduced to Shaffer [the rabbit] and a monster called a Rakum in what can only be described as an all out torture scene. Note: this book does not contain scenes of graphic horror, or graphic anything for that matter. Anyway, back to the story: Shaffer, the rabbit, cannot die at the hands of his tormentors; actually, he can't die, period. He has been marked a rabbit and his hell is eternal. This is actually the basic premise for the novel. Rabbits are traitors to the Rakum race, just as the original Rabbit "The Lost Rabbit" was a traitor to God. I'll give you some background here from the book, which will not spoil the story. In the beginning, four princes fell to the earth: Zalhdone, prince of pride and arrogance; Rah-Keel, prince of false witness and gossip; Zara, prince of sickness, affliction, and trouble; and Ta'avah, prince of covetousness, lust, and murder. But only Ta'avah fashioned an entire race with his evil intentions: The Rakum, the vampires of this Judeo-Christian vampire tale. In the Christian world, it would be as if the Devil decided he would not be satisfied living in the basement instead opting to populating the world with his own progeny. Vampires and religion are so closely connected in their superstitions that the basis for this story is quite believable, and so the mythos is plausible on a more mundane level. The background has already been written here in scripture, so the reader, if inclined, can make the leap of faith needed to believe in Beth Rider.

Our Beth Rider is a writer of vampire stories. Stories in which demons can be called back to God. Stories of redemption, specifically a story about Priest turned vampire by the Devil himself. Well, Miss Beth is at a book signing when a tattooed biker looking gentlemen [Jack Dawn] accosts her and tells her to watch her back. Turns out, he isn't too fond of the message her books are sending to others of his kind -- a message of hope in that a life of drinking human blood and living in the shadows is not the only option. An epidemic has arisen amongst his kind, and Rakum are falling for all the Bible-beating God nonsense and want to convert to the human race. This is unacceptable, and so Jack Dawn attacks Beth in her hotel room and marks her as a rabbit. Pretty much he has put the stink on her, and every Rakum within a bazillion mile radius is going to want to have their way with her for an eternity.

There are a lot of characters -- human and Rakum -- introduced to us over the course of the story and most are struggling with a crisis of faith in one way or another. Through these relationships we get to experience the Rakum from a variety of different viewpoints. Some Rakum and their human "donors" practice a very affectionate almost loving form of symbiosis, and others run the gamut between predator and prey and basically referring to humans as cows. We have the well-established Patriarchal society: all Rakum are men bred from mortal women who they use and abuse for no other reason than to increase their numbers. Too emotional and hysterical, women serve no purpose aside from the illustrious honour of becoming breeding bitches in a puppy mill, which is contradictory because all the male donors in the story are depraved and weak emotional basket cases. Yes, there are quite a few "ideas" in this story that might offend or disturb a reader or two. Drinking human blood is the least of it. Some readers might also find the homoerotic undertones a bit much to take, so be warned. Rakum men prefer their donors be men as well, and the relationships cross over into the obsessive. One might even make the connection that such relationships are evil by association, so again, depending on your particular religious inclination, you may find some of the subject matter offensive.

As for the plotting of the story, Beth now finds herself on the run without actually knowing it until she stumbles into Michael Stone at the airport. Michael doesn't understand how his master Jack Dawn could have marked this women. She is so innocent. He is just not getting a traitor vibe from her, so he decides to protect her until he can figure out what's going on. Beth comes to the immediate conclusion that Stone is the Archangel Michael sent by God to watch over her, so everything is meant to be and it will all turn out fine in the end because God plans everything. And speaking of that, Beth takes a bit of getting used to. Her faith is steadfast, and she adjusts to every iota of weirdness in her "new" world without flinching even once. Happy Go Lucky Fuzzy Bunny to the nth degree is how one can describe Rider. Some readers might have trouble with someone who behaves so lackadaisical in the face of bizarre supernatural events without a modicum of anger or a conflicted thought.

As the story progresses, other Rakum start making their pilgrimage to find Beth Rider ... a pilgrimage that will lead all the way to Area 51 and the Rakum secret underground compound there where an Assembly has been called to order to decide the demise of Miss Beth. Unbeknownst to them, Judgement Day for the Rakum is at hand, for you see, the Rakum have been deceived. They don't know where they come from. They don't know there is another choice, and they don't know salvation can be had for a pittance.

The rest of the book is basically everyone running from everyone else with oodles of close calls and torturous situations, while of course, Beth spends her time praying -- a lot -- and it must have worked to some degree because Michael falls in love with her, well, as much as he can: Stone isn't just his last name. However, he has other things to worry about. Michael Stone has a family secret to expose, and our poor Beth Rider, our little Alice dragged to Wonderland, must find her own sword and slay the Jabberwocky. Of course the deus ex machina comes in the form of an Angel at Rider’s back who thwarts any and all Rakum who stand in her way.

As you can see, the spiritual overtones in the book are a huge part of the story, so if you have a problem with God being mentioned frequently in your vampire stories, then you probably won't like this book. It's about evil incarnate turning towards the light; I mean, after all, if Vampires do indeed exist, then it stands to reason that God created them in the first place. Anytime you have a religious bent to a vampire story, it's wise to make sure the mythology coincides with various religious texts and interpretations of said texts. This book does a stellar job of it. If I go any further it will ruin the story, which is a very interesting take on the Nephilim or The Sons of God, which in some texts are considered to be fallen angels. Or in this case, they might even be likened to the Four Horsemen in a manner of speaking.

I also loved the cover, and the book's interior is formatted nicely. I did notice some minor editorial issues, nothing a proof-reader couldn't straighten out, but what struck me most about the story was that I really didn't feel anything for the two main characters. Stone and Beth Rider hit the page rather thinly. We don't know a lot about them and really get no emotional engagement from either of them at all even in the most climactic of scenes. Both of them are more or less divine vehicles: messengers if you will. Their purpose is to reveal secrets, nothing more. Now that doesn't mean that the story was emotionally flat. We just find it in the most unlikely of places: Jesse Cherie and Jack Dawn. The scene in which Dawn's brutally abusive childhood at the hands of Father Umberto is exposed made me wince. There isn’t a lot of brooding in this book, so if you are looking for Anne Rice vampire angst against a sweeping historical/religious background, you might be disappointed. This isn’t a horror story either: it’s a story with a very particular spiritual message, and my cautionary notations are really only for those readers who may be overly sensitive to the subject matter.

In the end, everything works out just as God intended. How could it not? And just like in any decent religious allegory, the battle must go on: the staff of Ta'avah is lost, and some Rakum choose to remain in the darkness, which means of course, there are more books to the series. Seems appropriate, since there were just too many characters, in my opinion, to flesh out in a book this size. I really wanted to get just a little more intimate with some of them. Hopefully, we will be offered that opportunity in subsequent books: There can be no Light without Darkness.


This book was reviewed from a PDF copy provided by the author.

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