by Axel Taiari
Review by Hereward L.M. Proops
I've said it before and I'll say it again... Amazon's Kindle is a great way for writers to get their work out there without having to conform to the traditional model of publishing. French author Axel Taiari's novelette “A Light to Starve By” is a fine example of how this form of self-publishing can enable writers to promote the work they want to and not what their agent tells them will sell. After all, when was the last time you heard of a big name publisher printing a novelette?
At just thirty pages long, Taiari's story just wouldn't work in book-form. However, as a digital download its short length doesn't seem to matter. It's rather like downloading a single mp3 track rather than a whole album. Those willing to risk their 86 pence are in for a treat.
“A Light to Starve By” is one of the best vampire stories I've ever read. In its short length, Taiari manages to create an extremely well-realised supernatural world. Vampires are real and have enjoyed thousands of years of preying on humankind. However, the tables have turned and the humans have developed a vaccine which renders their blood poisonous to vampires. Faced with the reality of starvation, the blood-suckers form themselves into clans and keep herds of unvaccinated humans for food. Church-sanctioned hunters seek to destroy the vampires, aided by mentalists – humans with devastating psychic powers.
To cram so much background detail into such a short story is no mean feat and what makes “A Light to Starve By” all the more impressive is that never once does the reader get the feeling Taiari is holding their hands through the exposition. Bit by bit, the author reveals the full extent of the vampires' world and the narrative never once slows down as a result of this.
The story is narrated by a nameless protagonist, a vampire who does not belong to a clan and is unable to fully let go of his human past. Like a junky in search of a fix, the narrator staggers through the Paris night in search of uncontaminated blood. Though a vampire, he is such a desperate, half-starved specimen that Taiari manages to elicit a considerable amount of sympathy from his readers. The bloody climax of the story reminds us that the narrator, though pitiable, is also a monster capable of acts of staggering brutality.
Taiari handles the action of the novelette with as much style as his moody descriptions of Paris at night. Though the action he describes is, at times shockingly violent, it is rendered more palatable by the fluid, almost poetic quality of his prose.
“A Light to Starve By” is a fantastic story and well worth downloading. Although it can easily be read in one sitting, it packs as much (if not more) of a punch than many longer novels by well-established horror writers. If there is any justice in the world, we'll be seeing a lot more of Axel Taiari in the future.
Hereward L.M. Proops