Friday, December 22, 2017

Knuckle Balled

RJ is back, escaped from LA into Austin with Bait's little sister Pinball and Eldritch, a Lestat wannabe. Austin has a new slew of vampire gangs with their own weird gimmicks and codes. Together, RJ and Eldritch aim to take orphaned and sickly Pinball to L. Byron Nightshayde, the onscreen vampire heartthrob who is apparently also a vampire in real life. He runs charities that help sick children and he's Pinball's best chance at getting treatment and a good life outside of dangerous vampire politics. Unfortunately, RJ is still a self absorbed junkie who creates more trouble than he solves.

I had a couple issues with Knuckle Supper, the first installment of this series. Knuckle Balled is leaps and bounds better. I couldn't put it down. The move to Austin and addition of Eldritch as a main characters are particularly welcome changes. First, the change of scenery throws RJ into a state of complete ignorance. He has no idea about vampire society outside of LA. The gangs are weaker, considering how he always pisses them off then tears some of them apart without fail. My favorite was the Chaplins, a group that dressed up like classic Hollywood stars. The drugs are weirder with the introduction of sunrise, a drug that replicates its namesake and also causes rot and accelerated healing in its users, namely a gang called the Real McCoys who could be mistaken for zombie burnouts. Some humans in the drug trade are actually aware of vampires’ existence instead of just providing food. The Minutemen are human mercenaries that clean up vampire messes and the vampire that caused them to keep the peace and vampire stay out of the public eye. Austin is hugely different and offers RJ an education of sorts.

RJ is continuing his growth started in the previous book. He ultimately wants to help Pinball especially after brutally killing her scumbag parent she in front of her. Pinball is rightfully terrified of him and is the complete opposite of Bait and brainwashed by her parents. Unfortunately, his drug addiction, general scumbagginess, and complete inability to recognize when someone is lying to him gets in the way. He’s always on the lookout for heroin and settles for other things like PCP that makes him rampage or coke which makes him incredibly manic. He takes everyone at face value and then acts surprised when there is much more to the person than they appear. The incident with the possum completely sums up RJ. He crashes under someone’s tarp to get out of the sun, kills an aggressive possum (to protect himself and take some heroin), and then guiltily tries to help after seeing the babies it left behind. He spectacularly fucks things up time and time again despite the good heart he has.

Eldritch is an amazing character. In the first book, he’s a bit of a punchline as a physical embodiment of Vampire Chronicles and Twilight type romantic vampires. He dresses in ornate style with stereotypical vehicles and furnishings that aren’t exactly low profile. Even his speech takes on that formal tinge that implies he’s much older than he is. His history is completely fabricated as he tells people he was raised by wolves. Unlike RJ, his real history is privileged with vampirism coming as a desperate cure instead of a Catholic experimental alternative to abortion for junkie mothers. His responsibility, caring, and civil nature contrasts greatly with RJ. Eldritch keeps Pinball safe, locking RJ out when he’s high or acting erratic, and is the most virtuous vampire in the series. It's nice to see someone whose morals haven't changed just because they became a vampire but it also probably helps to remember your childhood and have a conventional life.

Knuckle Balled is a another fun vampire novel with gore, violence, and heart. RJ is slowly changing and falling into drug addict traps along the way. The basic concept of the Catholic church inadvertantly creating these creatures because of their extreme aversion to abortion is awesome and sets the series apart from other vampire novels. I can't wait for more books in the series to see where the characters and the world as a whole will go.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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