I’m not sure what put me on a vampire kick, but here we are. Silvia Moreno-García’s Certain Dark Things presents an interesting take on the vampire mythos. The premise of the story is that the mundane world learned that vampires were real some fifty years ago. At that point, the various nations took steps to either contain the monsters or expel them outright. For various reasons, many of these banished bloodsuckers ended up in Mexico, where the anti-vampire laws were more lenient than most places, and European-style vampires are now running Mexico’s drug cartels in competition with the tlahuelpocmimi, the indigenous vampires of Aztec culture.
The story begins as Atl, the last surviving member of a powerful family of tlahuelpocmimi, is on the run after a deadly altercation with the Necros, vampires of the clan that had recently massacred her family. She flees to Mexico City, the lone ostensibly vampire-free stronghold in the country, where she meets a street kid named Domingo. The novel plays out as Atl and Domingo evade hostile forces both human and superhuman in a quest to find a place of refuge. As might be expected, the two grow in affection for each other, though there remains the nagging sense that their relationship might bring complications to Atl—and prove deadly for Domingo. You see, Moreno-García humanizes her vampires, but they’re still ultimately monsters. At one point, an ancient vampire warns Domingo, “We are our hunger.” Indeed.
The novel is well written, the characters believable, the near-future world fascinating. I especially appreciate how Moreno-García played with varying vampire legends from around the globe. There are ten known vampire species in this world: European, African, Indian, Chinese, and of course Mexican. Three of them are most involved in the plot, although about half of them at least get a mention at some point. (She describes all ten in an appendix, but I found this a bit of a letdown. If you’re not going to put them in the story and you don’t have plans for a sequel, why the info dump?)
Moreno-García takes some liberties with vampire mythology—they’re all living members of a distinct human species, and as much as possible their special powers and weaknesses are described in scientific terms—but she does this creatively, not haphazardly. She has obviously done her research, and it shows.
If you like vampire stories at all, you owe it to yourself to give Certain Dark Things a look.