Written by: Matt Molgaard
I’m not a huge fan of vampire novels. It’s not that I dislike them (we’re not talking about zombies, after all), it’s just that I’m a bit… indifferent. They don’t typically tug at my heart strings, and they rarely bring much of anything different to the table, but they don’t repulse me or anything life that. If a bloodsucker book proves to be entertaining, I’m game to ride along. The question is, is Ian S. McCain’s new tale of controlled suck-heads entertaining?
Product isn’t remarkably moving, but it is a fast-paced tale that makes an attempt at interjecting a little something new into the tired old formula. I wouldn’t label Ian’s spin groundbreaking, or even insanely imaginative, but it’s a solid bid to bring a freshness to the vampire tropes we all know and recognize. I won’t give too much away in regards to the story’s details, as that’s one of McCain’s strongest selling points, but I will say this: The angle here involves willing control and order. I can’t give too much else away on the spoiler end (not that that was much of a spoiler) if I hope to keep any of the surprises alive, but I can give you the gist while avoiding extensive excavation.
Ernie’s an aged dude with a lot of problems. The biggest being the fact that yesterday he was a human with no roof to call home and a bottle in hand… and very little ambition; today he’s a vampire without a bottle in hand, but he still comes up a little short in the personal goals department. His estranged daughter, Marie, knows her old man’s essentially a drunken, worthless bum, but she loves the old bastard just the same. She sets out on a mission to find him – they both reside in New York, by the way – all the while he’s busy adjusting to life as a vampire. Now, there are some wild conflicts introduced throughout the course of the story, but venturing there means I’m back on thin ice. Know this: One specific struggle, that doesn’t necessarily have all too much to do with humans, is cool in an almost video game-like, vivid sense. If that makes any… sense.
Where McCain surprises is in the evolutionary department. This novel isn’t a seamlessly crafted piece of art fit for grand display. In fact, based on the shorter works I’ve read recently, he’s already a far more advanced student of the game than he was when he wrote this novel. But, what’s really interesting, is the fact that you see and experience major growth from the man, just in the stretch of this one single piece of fiction. It isn’t uncommon to detect improvement in an author, but it’s typically most noticeable over longer stretches of time and multiple projects. The Ian McCain that wrapped this tale after 280 pages was already a better author than the Ian McCain who began on page one. And it’s clearly detectable. That’s the wild thing!
Ian S. McCain is developing at a rapid speed. There’s no telling where he’ll take us next, but one thing is just about guaranteed, it’s going to be an even smoother ride than that offered by Product. And Product is a fairly comfortable, enjoyable journey. No major hiccups to contend with, sound character development, a couple awesome action sequences and a few creative ideas. For a vampire novel, I’d say that’s solid work that definitely warrants a read.
If I worked on a quarter-point judging system, this one would grab a strong 3.75. Ian wasn’t – at the point of Product’s creation – quite at a “4 level”, in my opinion. I’ve got a strong suspicion the follow-up snags a higher rating. This guy is growing, scary fast. Product was good, Byproduct – the planned sequel – will likely be great.