Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Glass Houses by Rachel Caine, Book 1 of the Morganville Vampires series

Claire is an ultra-bright 16 year old college student. Away from home for the first time she arrives in Morganville – a Texas University town that happens to be controlled by vampires. And, having pissed off some vampire lackeys, she now has enemies – some of them with fangs.

Fleeing the dorm she arrives at Glass House, home of Michael, Shane and Eve all with their own secrets yet none of them in the vampire's pockets and all are willing to help her navigate the murky and dangerous politics of Morganville life.

Now she just has to find a way to get the vampires off her back, make her enemies back up and negotiate some kind of peace for her life.

I enjoyed this book – in a fluffy “don't look for too much depth and don't over think it” kind of way. It was fluffy, but it was interesting. The characters weren't the deepest but were largely lacking on the endlessly annoying features. The story was fairly original and had a fair twist or two – an entire town controlled by vampires and the consequences and arrangement of that was interesting to read about. Enough so that I'm curious about the world and how the plot develops from here and I'd even be content for every character to live. No, really, I don't wish death on any character! Though Claire could use a maiming.

Do I sound luke-warm? I think I largely am. I'd happily sit back and while away some free time reading this book, but if someone interrupted me I wouldn't curse and be irritated. If I had free time, I'd read it, I wouldn't make time to read it however. It didn't make me want to reach for the second book. It didn't make me cringe away from it, but it didn't make me eager.

I think my main objection story-wise and perhaps the reason why it doesn't go from “fluffy fun read” to “good book worth hunting out” is that I find the foundations of the plot weak. The motivations for the antagonists in singling out and persecuting Claire are both contrived and unbelievably shallow compared tot he extreme levels they're willing to go to. And you can't just gloss over it because the whole reason for the plot rests on it. Claire moving into Glass House was, again, contrived and a little dubious. There are several times when the plot moves forward because of rather implausible random occurrences. Claire decides to go noseying somewhere, a professor decides to get sticky fingers and a heart condition

And, of course, Claire has an over-abundance of Spunky Agency. She is constantly told things are dangerous and she won't listen. People try to extricate her from her various panics using their greater knowledge and she tries to go past them – constantly Shane and Michael and, to a lesser extent, Eve tell her what she needs to do to survive and she ignores them and, lo, they are right. She takes it into her head to do remarkably random things – like breaking into a secret room for no damn good reason. It doesn't just feel like Claire, a supposed genius, is somewhat lacking in intelligence, but it also feels contrived, like the author is desperate for a way to move the plot forward (especially after a fair while meandering through the whole 'fake book' idea) and needs something to move on. I'm not entirely sold on how the other 3 cast members instantly developed this instant attachment to and protection for her either.

Social justice wise, the books are straight and white. There is one black vampire we see for 2 seconds before he's maimed (and we know he's black by an excessive description of his skin tone) and that's about it for diversity. Gay exists as a joke, nothing else. I amuse myself by thinking this is because POC and GBLT people took one look at a Texas town run by vampires and decided to get out.