Stalking the Vampire: A Fable of Tonight
John Justin Mallory Book 2
By Mike Resnick
Published by Audible Studios
Read by Peter Ganim
John Justin Mallory is back in another novel-length adventure in this sequel to Stalking the Unicorn. This is one of those sequels in which you really do have to have read the previous book, because the big setup to the series takes place there and it is not adequately explained here how Mallory gets from the mundane version of Manhattan we know in our world to the version he now lives in where all sorts of fantastic creatures live and streets that have one name during the day have different ones at night and where walking around the block does not always bring you back to where you started. It also sort of assumes you know the fantastic characters from the first book with almost no explanation, so while the Grundy is a powerful demon who controls much of the fantasy Manhattan, he comes off as a lame Deus-ex-machina device this time around. Since I have read the first book, I knew all about this, but I have also read the reviews of others so can understand why they might not have “Gotten it.”
John Justin Mallory is a hard-boiled detective of sorts, but rather than being the cliché sort who should be a pile of bruises or have enough bullets shot into him to give him lead poisoning, even as he seduces several women along the way. Instead, he is more like a real private detective and not in a particularly romantic profession, but that’s okay, because along the way he picks up a small vampire sidekick who seems to be scared of just about everything including Mallory’s catgirl “pet” and other vampires and Scaly Jim Chandler (aka Nathan), a dragon who writes the cliché sort of detective mysteries I mentioned above. Like the first, this one takes place over the course of a single night, this time being All Hallows Eve – Halloween, so when best to go looking for a vampire?
I enjoyed the story for the most part, but it was not as good as Stalking the Unicorn. For one thing a lot of the jokes were retreads from the first book such as the goblins hawking some useless item or else the sexual favors of other goblins (usually female) every few pages and various other encounters in which whoever Mallory was talking to tried answering questions he had not yet asked. Also, for a relatively short novel, it dragged in places although the ending was well done and not the usual sort of conclusion to the classic vampire chase.
The length was stretched still more with various appendices; Mallory’s partner’s lecture to her hunters’ club on how to hunt vampires properly and a somewhat more scholarly paper on the nature of vampires both of which contradicted not only each other but certain facts we learn in the main narrative. There is also an extended excerpt from Scaly Jim’s version of the story. I have to admit that I really did not enjoy the Scaly Jim version. It was exactly as I would have expected from that character, an untalented bit of hackwork. I’ll admit that was the point, or I think that was the point, but it went on far longer than it needed to and I was tempted to turn it off and skip to the next book on my flashdrive and only listened to the whole thing because I did not know if there would be yet another appendix.
Peter Ganim reads this story as though it was a classic hard-boiled detective novel rather than a parody of one. I think that is the correct approach here. Comedy is a serious business and it needs to be treated seriously. Too many parodies are spoiled by the narrator forgetting he is the straight man in this gig, so I’d say he does an excellent job of this. In fact, if played for laughs, I think this would have been tedious to listen to.
So, it’s a pretty good story, but it has a lot of flaws. Its strong points mostly include the puns (never thought I would say that!) many of which are clever and come up unexpectedly, its weak spot is in the repetition of some very tired humor. But Ganim’s reading is perfect.
Definitely, however, only read this book after Stalking the Unicorn and not too long after that or you may not remember why things are the way they are here.