Whitley Strieber wrote The Hunger in 1981. It was his second novel and featured Miriam Blaylock, a glamorous female vampire, her current companion John. A third side to the triangle is a brilliant young doctor, Sarah Roberts, whose research may provide an answer to Miriam’s immortality and what it might mean to the human race. The book was memorably made into a sexy, campy feature film by Tony Scott in 1983 with Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon as the trio. What makes The Hunger different from other vampire novels is how Strieber presents a scientific approach to vampirism — the answer to what makes Miriam different might be in her blood, and therefore could possibly be harnessed in the lab somehow. The day-to-day practical aspects of being a vampire — how to select victims, what to do with the bodies after feeding — are presented as a way to plausibly insinuate that vampires have been successfully and glamorously operating in the shadows of our society from time immemorial.
Miriam is a fascinating creature. She views humans as her food source, but she is also obsessed with their talents and inventions — music, poetry, painting, design. She is also extremely lonely. She periodically creates a companion by giving them the “gift” of her own blood through transfusion. Their ability to stay young “forever” alongside her is only temporary, however, as John is finding out. After 200 years or so they begin to age — rapidly. Could Sarah Roberts help Miriam halt this deterioration? And what is up in the attic of her fabulous Sutton Place brownstone?
|David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger (1983)|
There is nothing wrong with an author revisiting an old theme, as Stephen King has proven with Doctor Sleep. But it is imperative that the author respects the memories of their readers, and at the very least goes back to re-read their original novel as a refresher. Unfortunately this is not the case with Strieber’s two follow-ups to The Hunger. Twenty years after the first novel can out Strieber decided to revive Miriam and her world in The Last Vampire, in 2001. Not only did he either fudge or completely forget what happened in the original novel, including stories of Miriam’s origin, but he introduced a third character, intrepid vampire hunter and CIA operative Paul Ward, a truly annoying character. Ward’s age doesn’t seem to compute — visual and anecdotal clues seem to suggest he’s in his 40s, but his behavior at other times seems much older, and then, later, during some truly bizarre sexual encounters, much younger. Plus, he doesn’t seem to do any detecting at all, but just ends up right where he needs to be most of the time. Science had been thrown out the window this time around. There is no interest on how or what vampires exist or what they might have to teach us, but just kill or be killed. Strieber’s second shot at Miriam isn’t much better. The brilliant, elegant, and overly cautious vamp (how else did she survive all this centuries?) is no more. She seems to do one stupid thing after another, and in the last third of the novel is presented as a nubile young woman who is running a downtown sex club in New York City who is just hungering for a vampire baby? Yikes.
Things don’t get any better in the third, and one can only hope final book in the series, Lilith’s Dream, which came out in 2002. Miriam was still alive at the end of The Last Vampire, but Strieber seems to have forgotten that. This book instead follows an uber-ancient vampire, Lilith, who may have ties to the Old Testament. But who knows? And guess who’s back — Paul Ward, going off half-cocked across the world in search of this creature.
If you run across any of these books I highly recommend The Hunger. The other two you would be better off skipping.
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