Bite Me: A Love Story
Review by Mike Finkelstein
So far we've had two novels in Christopher Moore's vampire story trilogy and, in each story, the novels have ended with vampires trapped in bronze to await the next time they're able to escape. The first time is was Jody and her vampire sire, the second time Jody and Tommy. Now, the third book in, our big question is just how will they escape their bronze tombs so we can once again focus on the eternal night life of our two lovebirds in the city of San Francisco.
Well, okay, the real question is whether or not Abigail Von Normal would steal much of the focal point away from the characters we actually care about (i.e., Jody and Tommy). Sadly, I regret to inform you that, yes, Abby is a major player in this story. Too big a player, in fact, as her annoying tendencies, which were already on display in You Suck: A Love Story, are even more prominent in this third and final novel. And that's not the only issue with this book. For fans hoping to get a grand resolution, a fun send off for characters they've grown attached to over the course of this trilogy, Bite Me: A Love Story is quite the let down in all respects.
The book opens a few months after the events of the second novel. In that time Abby and her boyfriend, biology masters student FooDog (not his real name) have been living in the loft rented by Jody and Tommy, having, as they put it, wild monkey sex while enjoying being free of parents, responsibilities, or worries. While they partied, Jody and Tommy sat encased in bronze, unable to escape. For Jody this wasn't a big deal as she knew how to turn into mist and could float, dreamily, day after day, peaceful and happy. Unfortunately for Tommy he never learned to turn to mist so, for the last few months, he's been living in a nightmare, unable to move and trapped with his hunger as he slowly went mad. When Jody finally does escape (due to bad booty moves from Abby's friend Jared, as well as him dropping his knife and scratching the bronzing, letting Jody mist her way out), she works to free Tommy... who quickly breaks free and escapes into the night, a mindless, craven husk.
Jody heads off to find Tommy but there are other issues. For one, the huge, shaved cat Chet was made into a vampire by Elijah, the first vampire (and Jody's sire) and has been stalking the night, growing smarter (due to the human vampirism within him) and making himself a great horde of evil vampire cats to terrorize San Fran. As the body count rises (and the homeless count drastically drops), both the Detectives from the precious books, Cavuto and Riviera, as well as the trio of ancient vampires from the last novel all come to realize there's a massive vampire problem on the Bay City. All of them want Jody and Tommy dead (although the other vampires also want to kill anyone and everyone that knows vampires exist in the process). It's a lot for any young-and-in-love couple to deal with.
There's a lot going on in You Suck and, honestly, that's one of the biggest problems with the story. There are so many moving pieces -- the ancient vampires, the young loves, Chet, the Animals (from the last novels), the Detectives, Abby and Jared and Foo -- that none of them really get a chance to breathe. The book struggles to find a way to balance all these characters, new and old, and all their needs on the story that none of them really feel like they're given proper respect. Everything about their stories is rushed.
If any character actually was the focal point of the book it would be Abigail (for the worse, believe me). The character was quite irritating in the previous novel, a teenager written by an author that doesn't seem to understand how teenagers talk. It's made worse this time around as Abby is not only given her own storyline here, attempting to become a vampire despite Foo working to prevent that over and over again, but she's also given the duty of basically narrating the story. Every other chapter is focused on Abby, telling us what happened in her own annoying style, to say nothing of an overly long prologue to the novel told to us entirely by Abby to recap everything that happened in the previous two novels. By the time the book comes to an end you'll just be glad you never have to hear from her again.
It's sad, really, because there's a lot of good ideas in the novel that could have worked if only Moore would have had more interest to focus on anything other than Abby. I want to say the author found Abby funny (which she isn't) and since he's a comedy writer he decided she was the best way to add humor to the novel. She wasn't, as I hardly laughed at all this time around. Frankly it feels like, at least on the comedy front, the author was trying way too hard this time instead of just letting the amusement naturally flow.
Frankly the novel would have been better if Moore would have just let the natural horror of these monsters come through for once. A giant, evil cat hellbent on killing everyone while making his massive army of vampire kitty cats is a pretty solid premise all on its own. It's amusing, in a dark comedy kind of way, but it also allows the novel to indulge in action sequences (as people fight against the cats) as well as creepy moments as shiny eyes come out of the darkness. That's the kind of vampire ideas we needed here.
The ancient vampires (who are, in effect the other villains of the story outside of Chet) don't get nearly as much development as they needed. We barely know them as characters, they're just malicious entities that roll into town with a desire to keep the vampire secret. That's solid motivation, to be sure, but Moore never invests in them as actual characters, keeping them from being real villains. We get more development on a huge, shaved, vampire cat than we do three of the only long-living vampires in the world's history (according to the novel). That's not right.
The novel also raises a point that only vampires made by Elijah can last for more than a few months, at most. The further you get from the "pure" bloodline, the quicker the vampiric cells degenerate and the host eventually dies. This is an interesting idea but it raises some questions the novel never answers, such as how did Elijah become a vampire and were there ever any others like him? The story uses the "biology", such as it is, to justify making a vampire cure and forcing a number of the characters to take it by book's end, but any kind of necessary "why" or "how" development of vampire history is completely ignored. It's a real wasted opportunity for necessary world-building.
Meanwhile, the core relationship of this series, Tommy and Jody, is completely tabled for the whole novel. Tommy flees off into the night near the start of the book and then he's on his own (mindless for quite some times as he rolls with Chet and his kitty posse for reasons best left to the book) while Jody goes around town looking for him. They don't get back together until near the end of the book and by then the story has already rush off to its predetermined conclusion. These books are supposed to be about these two characters, Tommy and Jody, as it's their "Love Story", but this third and final novel doesn't give us any of that love story to go off of.
The biggest issue, for everyone and everything in this novel, though is the fact that no one really ends up at a different place by the end of the story than they were at the beginning. Tommy, Jody, Abby, and everyone else, they all run around a lot, and many vampire cats (and a few vampires, and plenty of vampire rats) all die over the course, but none of them really move forward as characters. It's fair to say that nothing that happens in this story really had to happen to get us to the conclusion of the story. Had Tommy and Jody simply chatted for five minutes at the very end of the last book everything that happens here could have been rendered completely moot. Once you realize that nothing that happens in this book actually matters you realize that everything here, start to finish, was a complete waste of time.
I like the world built in these books, and I'm even fond of a number of the characters (not Abby and, frankly, not Jared either, but many others around them). This book should have been a grand conclusion, a proper wrap up of many stories that sends everyone off into their good night. People come, people go, and stories do end, but none of it is satisfying. As far as wrapping up this trilogy in a way that had to happen, Bite Me: A Love Story fails very, very hard. This trilogy, and it's readers, deserved far better from the conclusion of the story.