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Sunglasses After Dark

Novel by Nancy A Collins (USA) 1989.

When Sonja Blue was admitted into the Danger Ward of Elysian Fields, a sanatorium specialising in dependency problems, all the other inmates started having severe nightmares. Straitjacketed and locked in a padded cell, nevertheless she could enter the dreams of those around her, not often with pleasant results. And now Sonja Blue has escaped. Her body has learned to cope with the drugs pumped into her, her mind is once again active and functioning correctly. Now she must visit revenge on those who put her into such a situation. Claude Hagerty, the orderly on duty when Sonja escaped, is forced by circumstance to accompany her, and now he is finding out who and what she really is.

The revolutionary modern reappraisal of the vampire myth was Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire, which made vampirism attractive by concentrating on eroticism and power. Nancy Collins, another woman writing out of New Orleans, reworks the hierarchy of the undead into Pretenders, and the legend into something more down to earth than crosses and stakes. But the reason this holds its own amidst myriad competitors is due more to style than innovation. Though using a simple revenge plot device, Collins weaves in a detailed background sprinkled with characters shadowy or defined as required, resulting in a fascinating framework of powerplay: the powerlessness of the powerful given certain circumstances; and the abuse of power, in many meanings of the word.

The flaws are minor, the inclusion of a character called Catherine Wheele being no more than mildly annoying. But the blatant omission of promising parts of a first novel for use in a sequel is just not cricket - Morgan, the vampire who 'creates' Sonja, is hardly used, and tantalising hints of Fevre Dream-esque battles for vampire supremacy remain just hints - though at least Morgan gets plenty of coverage in the second Sonja Blue novel, In the Blood. Of the plethora of vampire titles, this is one of the most acclaimed, and if not of the same class as its wonderful sequel, still a worthwhile read. A character as innovative as Sonja Blue should not be left alone, and Collins returned to her debut character in In the Blood and Paint It Black. The three novels were later collected into Midnight Blue: The Sonja Blue Collection by White Wolf.

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