REVIEW: Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite

At a club in Missing Mile, N.C., the children of the night gather, dressed in black, look for acceptance. Among them are Ghost, who sees what others do not; Ann, longing for love; and Jason, whose real name is Nothing, newly awakened to an ancient, deathless truth about his father, and himself.

Others are coming to Missing Mile tonight. Three beautiful, hip vagabonds—Molochai, Twig, and the seductive Zillah, whose eyes are as green as limes—are on their own lost journey, slaking their ancient thirst for blood, looking for supple young flesh. They find it in Nothing and Ann, leading them on a mad, illicit road trip south to New Orleans. Over miles of dark highway, Ghost pursues, his powers guiding him on a journey to reach his destiny, to save Ann from her new companions, to save Nothing from himself. . . .

Warnings: Violence, Rape, Dubcon, Suicide, Underage sexuality, Incest, Use of slur

Category: M/F, M/M

Lost Souls is a brooding, gothy vampire novel from the 90s. It’s meandering and nihilistic hedonism make it a very interesting read, together with some really disturbing horror content. Perfect for spooky season!

The stylistic prose here is very irreverent. There’s a kind of down and out realism to it, in the way it fleshes out characters and perspectives and settings, with language that comes across as low brow and gritty. It explores the lives of various small town people, and the subcultures of 90s rocker and goth scenes, and the disillusionment of 90s youth. It takes a bit for the story to really kick into to gear, the beginning bits kind of slow to start out so it’s definitely a ‘keep reading it’ll get better’ sort of book, as once the vampires arrive on scene and start fucking up people’s shit, it becomes very gripping. It does remain a rather languid narrative however, sort of dreamlike and meandering through its events, as gruesome as they are, with a nihilistic flair for gore and death. It’s all quite 90s, and feels like a snapshot of a specific grungy subculture, and there may be a bit of a disconnect between it and modern readers, at times feeling a little over the top with the 90s goth, but I found it really haunting reading.

I loved most of the characters, they are all very interesting, complex, and well fleshed out. The vampires especially have such a flair with the violence and the sensuality of murder and seduction that I couldn’t help falling for them and being invested in their little band of low brow punk serial killers. It’s not the usual high class suave vampires at all, and I found that I was extremely invested in Nothing’s quest to find himself and his belonging with said vampires. The heroes were also interesting, but one of them frustrated me incredibly, as the narrative’s treatment of his abusive and violent actions, including misogyny and sexual assault, seemed far too hand-wavy for my enjoyment. I expect the vampires to be pieces of shit, and I don’t even mind a protagonist being morally grey, but when the other characters make excuses for toxic behaviour it tends to break my enjoyment. Every character aside from this one was a joy to follow however and overall I was very emotionally invested in all of them, and thought the various ways they interacted and related to each other was stellar.

The worldbuilding here is very interesting, and the vampire lore is a kind of mix of traditional and more modern takes. There’s some of the classic ‘stupid humans, vampires aren’t actually effected by crosses!’ sort of stuff but they also are very much inhuman in nature, uncanny and monstrous in ways that I think a lot of vampire stories lack. There are different kinds of vampires, too, vampires that drink blood and vampires that siphon energy or youth, vampires that can process food and alcohol and vampires that cant. There’s a whole supernatural world present in this story that the story itself clearly barely scratches the surface of, from Ghost’s visions and abilities to the magic practitioners of New Orleans. One thing I will say that I did not much care for however is the element of racial fetishization in the text. There are a few instances in which non-white people are othered- in one scene the vampires kill and drink an Indian woman and the text remarks that she tastes exotic and like spices. That sort of attitude pops up from time to time and is kind of embedded into the scenery of the story.

This book is dripping with blood and gore and sex, and often all at once. There are some extremely hot blood drinking scenes, and the book is horny about life and death in a way that not enough vampire stories understand, or pull off well. It’s incredibly sensual in its macabre quality, and I have rarely read such utterly dreamlike murder and sex. I adore that the vamps here are really quite evil in nature; their approach to primal urges and desires is so perfectly monstrous and exactly what I want from a vampire novel, and the kind of uncomfortable and disturbing sex that I find most interesting to read. I will warn this has a whole lot of extremely problematic sex content, so mind the tags. Its a chaotic, gothic nihilistic cornucopia of murder, incest, and everything else you can think of, presented in as surreal a manner as possible. Not for the faint of heart, certainly, and designed to be discomforting and frightening.

This blend of both sexy and monstrous is what I look for in a vampire novel, and I wish that more vampire novels understood how to utilize both at once like this. It is unfortunate that there are some aspects to the novel that very much did not age well however, but at the very least the book will sweep you into a world of grime and viscera in a way few other books do.

Have you read Lost Souls? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!

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