Title: The Left Hand
Author: Serenity J Banks
Publisher: Dark Continents Publishing, 2011
Blurb: Meet Eddie Kane: ex-cokehead and current, clueless sidekick to the enigmatic Calif Cryste, badass vampire hunter extraordinaire—and unforthcoming warrior of God. In the midst of a two-man crusade to put a kibosh on the vampire populations currently besieging the tribal lands of the Midwest, Eddie can’t help but notice that the string of death and destruction in their wake has begun to draw a certain, uncomfortable amount of attention from the local media. Enter obsessed FBI Special Agent Doug Degulchi, suspended from the agency over his proofless conviction that these two are “the guys,” and Eddie finds himself an unwilling player in an over-arching drama as Calif’s own misguided sort of apostles begin to fall into place. Meanwhile, the vampire hordes race to multiply their ranks in anticipation of a coming battle even Calif cannot (or will not) predict, and Eddie hasn’t even had a chance to face his own demons yet. Whether or not Eddie’s prepared to accept the truth, though, the second-born is here to wage war… on his own, if he has to.
Review: This novel is so much more than just a badass vampire hunter with a clueless sidekick playing Robin to his Batman. Serenity J Banks plunges readers into a dystopian vision of the American Midwest that left me feeling scratchy behind the eyes by the time I’d finished reading.
Eddie starts out as a weak character who chain-smokes his way through the story. Not only does he have an addictive personality, but he has demons from his dysfunctional upbringing he needs to process before he can take on the undead demons he and his partner hunt. While he may seem passive at first, he slowly grows into himself as he makes sense, in his own way, of the horror that surrounds him and Calif. He is very much an unreliable narrator, and therein lies the beauty of following the tale from his perspective.
Calif is the mystery man, the hero with a purpose who shows rather than tells Eddie what their quest is all about. All I can say, without revealing spoilers, is that all will be revealed, and there is a very poignant raison d’etre for Calif. Though his silence is maddening, readers will later come to and see why exactly. All I can say is that the story is so much stronger for Banks having resisted the temptation of making the man a viewpoint character.
Delgulchi, the hapless FBI agent, follows in the wake of the vampire-busting pair, whose very existence spell the end of his career. His obsession with discovering the truth drives him to the brink of madness.
But Banks returns the undead to the realm of horror, which is a refreshing change in perspective after all the glitter we've experienced in the media. There's nothing sexy about the vampires readers encounter in this story. They're mean, hungry and are more apt to rip your throat out than pause to share pleasantries. Her vampires are frightening and overwhelming.
Threaded through this tale is an alternative viewpoint on the Christian mythos that is not mired in the tired Hollywood ideals of light and dark. Our heroes are tattered, tired and face overwhelming odds.. Mankind is doomed, and its savior is not here at the behest of their redemption. From a broader perspective this appears to be a development of the vampire mythos, but I sense it’s far more than that. Eddie, as the narrator, tries to explain but the only terminology he has available, is based on a Western viewpoint. We view this tale through his subjectivity and I gain the idea that a different character would have applied a totally different explanation to the tale.
In closing, I'll say this much. The Left Hand is not an easy read. But it's definitely one of the most thought-provoking stories I've read all year and I recommend it to readers who like substance, grit and despair in their reading matter. Serenity J Banks is a masterful storyteller and I'll be keeping my eye on her from here on in.