Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Undeath and Taxes (Fred, the Vampire Accountant #2) by Drew Hayes

Fred has come a long way since becoming a vampire.  He's gone into business for himself as an accountant, found a girlfriend and has made a circle of dependable friends.  That's not bad for a socially awkward person who used to spend most of his time alone.  Now if only he could stop finding himself in positions which force him to brave - something Fred most certainly is not, then things could be perfect.

Just like The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant, Undeath and Taxes, is told through a series of short stories.  This is still not my preferred format for reading and I would have liked one cohesive story from start to finish better. That being said, there was a nice flow to the mini short stories and Hayes took care to add to the meta, even if I am not pleased with what the addition turned out to be.  Hayes also gave us a great sense of the hierarchy in the parahuman world and how it is policed by agents.

My largest complaint with Undeath and Taxes is the predatory child molesting tone it took in terms of Sally's relationship with Gideon the centuries old Dragon.  From the beginning, Fred wonders why Gideon would chosse to cloak himself in a child's body and become Sally's playmate.  In Undeath and Taxes, we learn that Sally is a Tiamet, quite literally the mother of dragons. (Go ahead and let your mind channel Daenerys Targaryen  for a moment and then stroll on back.) This means that when Sally reaches maturity, she will be able to give birth to a dragon and given that the dragon birth rate is exceedingly low, this is a huge deal.  Gideon has therefore struck a deal with Richard, Sally's father to grow up with Sally as her playmate and then marry her when she becomes an adult.  There's only one word for this kind of scenario and it's grooming. Even if Gideon doesn't touch Sally sexually until she's and adult it's still catfishing.

Hayes treats the betrothal between Gideon and Sally as a huge secret but not because of how problematic their relationship is but because of Sally's potential to breed dragons.   First off, making a female character important because of her potential reproductive ability reduces her to nothing but a womb and it's sexist and wrong.  To then have Gideon grow up alongside her, sharing in her confidences, playing the role of friend and shaping who she becomes only to set himself up as a suitor once she reaches maturity is straight out of a pedophiles playbook.  There's simply no other way of looking at it.  It took some of enjoyment out of Undeath and Taxes for me, even if it only accounts for a small part of the book.

No matter how much Fred dislikes violence and being placed into situations where has to be brave, he always seems to end up in some sort of confrontation.  Because Undeath and Taxes is written in the form of multiples short stories, it quickly becomes at least somewhat sort of repetitive.  The situations vary but inevitably, Fred finds a way to out smart each story's particular antagonist, or is saved by a stronger friend. The only thing that changes from beginning to end is that with each new situation Fred becomes less and less likely to panic, resigned to the fact that this is his life now.  At the end, he is even willing to sacrifice himself to save his friends, having determined that they have become a family.  That's a long way from the vampire who tried to run away from the werewolves in The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant.

There really isn't much in the way of character development in this book.  The character are pretty much the same as we left them in the first book.  I think that this is because unlike Fred, the other parahumans have become accustomed to the idea that there are lives are always going to be chaotic. When the King of the West gets kidnapped for instance, it's business as usual for them. I like the way that Fred is always willing to try and do what's morally right and that he tends to use his unique skills as an accountant to solve the problem rather than physical force. No matter what has changed, Fred remains true to himself and that includes wearing his sweater vest.

Fred, the Vampire Accountant isn't a very inclusive series at all.  We have Bubba who is a gay were pony.  Bubba doesn't have as big of a role in this book; however, he has just as much involvement as all of the other side characters. At this point he isn't in a relationship and serves a long with the other para humans as a guide to the supernatural world for Fred.  Bubba is tough, loyal and funny. Bubba however constitutes the only marginalised character in this series.  Would it kill Hayes to include a character of colour or a disabled character?

At its heart, Fred, the Vampire Accountant series is quirky. It includes things like a self aware house which serves as a bed and breakfast and weapons of destiny which choose who wields them. There are times that it's laugh out loud funny.  As much as I would prefer one story from start to finish, I must admit that I am hooked on this series. I want to see what mess Fred gets himself into next and how he gets out of it.

Editor's note: were it not for the grooming of Sally, Undeath and Taxes probably would have been rated a 4.5-5 fang book because it's better than its predecessor and extremely funny.