Written by: Matt Molgaard
Z. Rider’s Suckers is the kind of novel that arrives with intrigue in tow. It’s about a band on the road who experience a big change when one member is attacked by what appears to be some strange kind of bat. It isn’t a huge deal, initially, but when he begins to develop a craving for human blood things get pretty serious. Especially when he learns that he’s not the only one who’s been attacked, and some of those who have been attacked, are soon attacking others themselves. Then the world essentially goes to hell and it’s up to instinct and logical thinking to try and beat the unorthodox outbreak.
It sounds like a really cool story, and it starts strong. But sadly the promise quickly unravels. While Rider has some very real talent, and when focused on certain aspects of the story, proves capable of excelling, there’s an obvious problem at work here. We don’t get to experience any terror, instead we’re told that terror is happening. There are countless opportunities to put the reader in the driver seat as the vehicle barrels through hell, but it’s only referenced. We never once climb into said vehicle. We watch it fly by in the form of references. The creatures attacking people are busy wreaking havoc, but up until the final 30 pages or so, we’re simply told that they’re wreaking havoc. We never get to see it in our own minds thanks to a descriptive or up close and personal narrative. And trust me, this is a book in which we needed to experience that.
I noted that the novel starts strong. When Dan is attacked, it sets a fine tone. We think we’re in for a wild adventure following a struggling rock band. That’s not the case. The story begins as the band is wrapping up their tour. There isn’t much of any band activity at all. There’s also a very, very noticable dearth of action. In fact, there isn’t a single action sequence in the 300-plus pages that follow Dan’s attack. For a vampire novel, that’s very strange, and the decision to continue developing characters up until the final page results in a rather dull read. Even Anne Rice, whose style lends itself to slow storytelling, incorporates a few fun action sequences. We’re told all about the action in Suckers, but we never once get to experience it.
Another big problem for me, comes in the fact that there’s a radical personality shift in the final 40-50 pages, after Ray, a strong willed, always determined protagonist finds himself in a troubling position. To expect some alterations to the character isn’t outlandish, but he essentially becomes soeone entirely different from the person we come to know in the first 250 pages. It’s too much to swallow, as are Dan’s actions, and his decision to abandon his mother, who’s been nothing but good to him, in order to chase after Ray who’s suddenly become all but hopeless (by this point). It doesn’t read too well. It feels, in fact, as though we’ve been almost betrayed. We can’t even count on the characters to remain true to themselves down the stretch.
If you’re big on soap operas, you may get a kick out of this one. Personally, I’m not. While I confess to adoring Dark Shadows, I don’t want to read it, penned under a different title. At times, that’s how Suckers feels. This is an unfortunate misfire from an author who – I believe – has the capacity to tell an amazing tale.
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