Some people are born boring. Some live boring. Some even die boring. Fred managed to do all three, and when he woke up as a vampire, he did so as a boring one. Timid, socially awkward, and plagued by self-esteem issues, Fred has never been the adventurous sort.
One fateful night – different from the night he died, which was more inconvenient than fateful – Fred reconnects with an old friend at his high school reunion. This rekindled relationship sets off a chain of events thrusting him right into the chaos that is the parahuman world, a world with chipper zombies, truck driver wereponies, maniacal necromancers, ancient dragons, and now one undead accountant trying his best to “survive.” Because even after it’s over, life can still be a downright bloody mess.
I’m honestly not sure where to start with this one, except to say that this book is anything but uninteresting. Fred (as it was affectionately nicknamed in the digital hallways of REUTS Publications — and no, I did not work on this one) is, in a word, unique. As much because of its unusual structure as for the protagonist himself. Hayes has once again managed to take stereotypes and turn them on their head — a talent I continually find refreshing.
Frederick Frankford Fletcher was just a normal CPA until the night he was turned into a vampire, when he became exactly the same, just with fangs. Within pages, Hayes presents us with an interesting take on the age-old creatures of the night, playing within the mythology to create something new and yet familiar at the same time. And he continues to do that with a cast of quirky, off-the-wall characters that include such brilliant inventions as a truck-driver werepony named Bubba. Yes, take a moment to process that. The image you’re picturing is exactly correct.
Through myriad adventures that literally had me laughing out loud at times (and I never do that), Fred discovers what it means to live, coming to terms with his new identity as a vampire, learning to love, and even finding a group of friends more loyal than any he had during life. While the shenanigans are awesomely ridiculous at times, the heart of the story is one I think many twenty-something people can relate to, and those of us past that mark can look back on with nostalgia.
The one thing that may deter some people from fully enjoying the story is the format. Broken into five novelettes and presented as excerpts from Fred’s journal, it doesn’t quite have the flow of a full-fledged, stand-alone novel. It breaks the fourth wall (which I normally have a hard time with), but does so in a way that helps the story connect with the reader, much like Mystery Science Theater 3000 did — with self-deprecating mockery and sarcasm. My advice to potential readers is to view this not as a complete novel, but as an omnibus of vignettes. Each story is complete unto itself, and while the entire thing does flow into a larger narrative arc, there is some overlap between them that can be a tad annoying.
I, for one, feel like Hayes’s signature wit and brilliant imagination overcome the uncommon format though. And I applaud him for trying a literary structure that has, perhaps, fallen out of favor in modern literature. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys shorter fiction, or who’s looking for a fun, entertaining, and heart-warming read.