February 26, 2005
MarkBernstein.org
 
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Minion

L. A. Banks set out to incorporate Buffy into the vampire mythos, the consensual natural history of vampires that writers all share. Everyone knows that vampires have fangs, everyone knows Dracula, and now everyone knows about slayers. Here, the slayer is almost 21, she's a black rock star, she's got an entourage of guardians, and we've got all sorts of interesting opportunities to explore race and inner-city violence as communal vampirism.

This book is such a mess than you wonder what St. Martin's was thinking. After combat and chases and brooding foreshadowing, it climaxes in.... exposition! Buckets and pools of exposition! The exposition solves nothing and resolves nothing. It's delivered by characters ex machina de profundis that trot onto the stage only to deliver the exposition. Nobody goes, nobody comes, nothing ever changes.

I'm very uneasy about the title. The Huntress's nemesis, a New Orleans master vampire named Fallon Nuit, calls his circle of followers "The Minion". This makes no sense -- minion is not a collective noun. Could L. A. Banks possibly mean us to read it as minyan ? I hate to think that's what Banks intended, and since she's capable of writing about "The Knights Of Templar," you know that precision of language is not her strong point. The rest of the mythos is strongly Christian -- crucifixes really work, swearing will summon dark forces, and unbelief is explicitly cited as a strategy of the dark forces.

The book, if it's about anything, is about trying to build a metaphor for the conflict between elements in African-America street culture, conflict between guys in the street and the womenfolk in the church. In the context of race and religion, this is too close for comfort. It should have been caught, if accidental, or excised if not.

There are a few places you just can't go these days -- mythos elements so dark that you can't use them for stunts. High school coaches that turn the swim team into monsters? Sure. School cafeteria cooks brandishing huge knives? Go for it! But blood libel -- suggesting that the Jews are vampires? You do not want to go there, you do not want to visit that neighborhood after dark.