Review: Enter, Night, by Michael Rowe

>>Published: October 2011

>>Finally got around to it: December 2011

The pain when he bit down was incredible, but it vanished almost before it had even registered. As he felt the blood drain from his body, Richard Weal felt himself pulled up into a swirling vortex of crimson and gold light. For the briefest possible moment, Weal caught a glimpse of a glittering necropolis of souls, a dimension of pure love and endless wisdom. Its inhabitants reached out, their arms outstretched to embrace him, to join him to them, to forgive him and to guide him and beckoning his soul to join the mass of others.

Not this! Make me like you! Make me like you! You promised! I want to live forever! This isn’t what I killed for! This isn’t what I died for! YOU PROMISED!

The crimson sky turned black and cold and violent.

***

I know what you’re thinking: a vampire novel in 2011 without glitter, shirtless-at-every-opportunity werewolves, and potentially dangerous messages about relationships and expectations for young men and women everywhere? Bullshit! But here we are with Lambda and Spectrum award-winning author Michael Rowe’s first novel, Enter, Night, and there’s not a loosely veiled Mormon abstinence tale in sight. Oh, happy day.

Enter, Night follows recently widowed Christina Parr, her daughter Morgan, and brother-in-law Jeremy as they return to the small northern Ontario town of Parr’s Landing in 1972, where Jeremy, Christina, and Christina’s late husband Jack grew up. The name Parr, as one might imagine, carries substantial weight in this small community, which is lorded over by the hate-filled, Sauron-like eye of Jeremy and Jack’s mother, Adeline. Persecuted for what Adeline perceived as unforgivable sins, Jeremy, Jack and Christina abandoned the Landing more than a decade prior to the start of the tale. However, due to Jack’s untimely death and insurmountable financial troubles that followed, Christina and Jeremy have been forced to return to Parr’s Landing and beg the help of the bitter and authoritarian Adeline.

Also returning to Parr’s Landing, for the first time since 1952, are two opposing forces: Billy Lightning, a professor who seeks the answers to his father’s recent murder; and Richard Weal, a presumed-dead man with a murderous, supernatural agenda. Both men are tied to events surrounding the excavation of a Jesuit settlement in Parr’s Landing and a mysterious, malevolent entity trapped within the site.

Enter, Night isn’t a typical vampire tale. It certainly pays tributes to tropes of old—stakes through the heart, immolation via sunlight, feeding on the blood of the innocent—but injects the element of colonialism into the mix. That the vampire at the heart of the tale is in fact a 17th century Catholic priest who sought to colonize the natives of the land is a detail perfectly mirrored in the book’s many disparate threads: the way gossip spreads through a small, deeply conservative town, instilling unshakeable prejudices; the manner in which a matriarch’s oppressive worldview and homophobia bleeds into the minds of her children, infecting them with a reactionary degree of fear; the racism and subjectivity of small town law enforcement with little to no outside-the-fishbowl experience. The viral aspect of vampirism—as a plague or parasite that can decimate an area—is at the core of Rowe’s narrative. That the vampire is a supernatural being is unimportant. What matters is what the vampire represents, as a concept and as a thing to be feared.

Not everything in Enter, Night is as effective as its tone. The book begins with a rather tangential subplot that, though it introduces us to the bastard Richard Weal, feels altogether unnecessary. Similarly, the final act—the unearthed transcription of Father Alphonse Nyon’s deathbed confessional regarding his confrontation with the vampire, Father de Céligny, at the site of St. Barthélemy—feels strangely misplaced. The content of this final act is captivating and is likely the strongest aspect of the entire novel, but it feels truncated, as if this small narrative within the text should have been expanded into a separate second book. As a consequence of this, the novel feels a little stuffed to the gills, as if Rowe wasn’t sure what to cut and what to keep.

Pacing issues aside (and some tonal problems with Finn, whose voice sometimes trips between that of a young child and someone with social and/or developmental problems… which may or may not have been intentional, I can’t say for sure), Enter, Night is a welcome shot in the arm for the vampire genre—because, apparently, it is a genre unto itself these days. Considering the glut of limp-wristed horror titles that want to address vampirism through forbidden love or unfortunate farce (see: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and all zombie, werewolf, and android related titles), Enter, Night has the potential to capitalize on aspects of the genre that have been forgotten as of late.

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