Die Softly

Die Softly by Christopher Pike

Dude. This plot…

I’d like to paint you a picture of myself with both hands raised to the sky in the ultimate gesture of WTFery. Christopher Pike never ceases to make my head explode like a watermelon stuffed with dynamite. But in a good way, mind you. After I’ve sponged my brain off the floor, I usually trot up to the Master of YA Suspense and plead “Please Sir, may I have some more?”

Since Die Softly is out-of-print and you’ll probably have to scavenge the four corners of the earth to find a used copy (like I did), I see nothing wrong in engaging in a little spoiling of the plot. But first, the opener:

“His blood was hot. His thoughts were naughty. Outside, in front of the gymnasium, were Alamo High’s cheerleaders, posing prettily for Herb’s camera. Inside his head were the same cheerleaders, only in his imagination they were even prettier—they were naked. Soon they would be naked. It would be that night that he would set his plan in motion.”

Now that’s how you kick off a novel! If that doesn’t make you want to read ahead, you are dead inside! I don’t normally quote from books, but in this case, I considered this one of the best openers I’ve encountered in a long time and it is, quite simply, a work of art. Of course, if you value simple, engaging, and most importantly, entertaining writing as art, then we visceral readers are on the same page. Christopher Pike always entertains and I can’t help but wonder how many high schoolers would graduate with a life-long love of reading if they were assigned to read Die Softly in English class as opposed to say, The Scarlet Letter. But that is a topic for discussion on another day…

Die Softly is an early ‘90’s relic, a breed of YA horror that cannot exist in today’s YA market. Imagine the controversy, the banning parties, and the book burnings if this story was published today. This is prime example of pre-Columbine YA literature and it should be preserved as a slice of simpler times.

Herb, our slightly pervy protagonist, plants his camera in the girl’s shower and plans to distribute the nudy pics on graduation day. He has a crush on Alexa, one of the cheerleaders, who’s best friend Lisa (another bouncy cheerleader) perished in a fiery car crash the day before. The film Herb develops shows Alexa sneaking up to Lisa with a baseball bat.

Then a series of seriously weird shit goes down in which Herb suspects his friends of trying to KILL him to get the negatives. Also, a crack addict jock tries to CRUSH Herb at a gas station when Herb’s friend does a DRIVE-BY and saves the day.

Somewhere in the middle of the book, Herb and Alexa hide in a bush and watch a stand off between minor characters in which someone is SHOT BY A SNIPPER RIFFLE and another someone is IMPALED.

Where is this town and why are all the teens packing heat?!!!

Okay. So I promised you the plot, but I’ve gone cross-eyed.

Nudy pics. An underground cocaine ring operated by evil cheerleaders who share the same boyfriend. Snipper riffles. You can’t read this in a YA anymore…

The ending threw me for a loop and it was, dare I say, ironic? I love how Pike isn’t afraid to throw his characters under the bus, even if that means killing off his narrator and still tie up his loose ends and finish on a high note.

Bravo! A-.

Now if only I could find Master of Murder my quest to recapture my tween years will be complete!

Thirst No. 2

Thirst No. 2 by Christopher Pike

I wish Christopher Pike wasn’t so mysterious so I could have a sneak peak at his wheel-o-plots. I’m convinced Pike works with a random shit generator or else I’m at a loss to explain the WTFery in Thirst No. 2.  Likewise, I secretly worship Pike’s storytelling genius. In the hands of a lesser writer, WTFery dizzies the mind. In the hands of Pike, it entertains the pants off me.

Thirst No. 2 chronicles the ass-kicking adventures of Sita, a five thousand year old vampire, and takes off where the NUCLEAR EXPLOSION vaporized the evil government base in Thirst No. 1.

World weary Sita tinkers with her Medieval-priest-lover’s alchemy force crystals, re-engineers her six stranded vampire DNA, and transforms herself into a lowly human.

Then she becomes preggers. The father, I should mention, is her teen lover who she thought perished in the gas tank explosion from the first book…or DID he?!!!

*Takes deep breath* Okay. So. Sita has the fastest pregnancy this side of Breaking Dawn and expels the demon child in a shower of gore goblets. The child is a modern scientific marvel and grows exponentially within a few weeks to the equivalent of a twenty year old. Also, she is evil incarnate. Also, she THIRSTS…

Meanwhile, Sita’s friend…the nun…experiences an immaculate conception and we learn through an ancient Egyptian prophecy, this child is the next messiah. But wait! Sita’s daughter was sent to kill the messiah and not even a cult with high power assault rifles could stop her. People are defenestrated off of skyscrapers.

See what I mean about WTFery?  Usually vampire stories are more or less predictable but this is so far from predictable it might as well be from another planet. Speaking of the extraterrestrial, this book ends with intergalactic time travel on a SPACESHIP.

I have nibbled on the Wonderland mushrooms and I like it.

A+

Thirst No. 1

Thirst No. 1 by Christopher Pike

Remember in Rambo II when Rambo spears some unfortunate evil dude and said evil dude BLEW UP? Something of that nature happens in this re-issue of a ‘90’s vampire classic. Rest assured, people will explode, sometimes spontaneously, sometimes on account of sniper rifles and rocket launchers, and, if you’re a pro at suspending your disbelief, Pike will take you on a high octane roller costar ride and then blow YOU up.

In a thinly veiled attempt to ride the YA vampire train to riches and glory, the publishers of Christopher Pike’s backlist have re-issued the first three novels (The Last Vampire, Black Blood, Red Dice)  of his bestselling Last Vampire series in this thrilling pulp omnibus.

Sita is a five thousand year old vampire: blond, beautiful, and a certified badass. She’s also the last of the bloodsuckers and, as the story begins, she’s the new girl in Mayfair, a sleepy town in the Pacific Northwest. In history class, she meets Ray, a sensitive teen hunk and here I almost sent this book back to the library unread; I felt like I read this story before. In this case, I’m secretly beating a certain author who shall not be named with the plagiarism stick because I suspect Pike was probably rocking out to Nirvana when he penned The Last Vampire which is to say this chick came before that egg hatched at twilight. Plus, Sita glittered too…for logical reasons, radioactive fallout being one of them.

Out of loyalty to Pike, I soldiered through the “I drink blood and you must think this is unique” bit to the “So the lion falls in love with the lamb: I have no soul, but he has soul enough for two” crap and I am glad. There are…HELICOPTER CHASES, DEADLY FLUTE PLAY-OFFS, RABID VAMPIRE DOGS, and someone gets SPEARED with a JAVELIN (I do love a good spearing).

Let’s speak plainly. Ray—Sita’s mortal lover and ‘soul mate’—was such a sniveling wimp he makes Bella Swan look like Chuck Norris. I doubt I’m the only reader who felt this way, which is why it was so cool when Christopher Pike, probably sensing the inherent lameness of this character, BLEW HIM UP!!!! Have you ever come across a character you can’t stand and wish the author would make him or her (*cough* Bella) spontaneously combust and then the author READ YOUR MIND and plopped this annoying character next to a leaky gas tank and lit a match? This…and helicopter chases, is why Christopher Pike is the king of YA pulp.

Count me in for Thirst No. 2. I have to find out what happens after Sita launched the nuclear warheads and nuked Vegas. Don’t you dare laugh! The way I see it, vampire stories are already far-fetched; why not crank the lever to full-throttle and juice the horror/sci fi genre for all it’s worth? Pike holds nothing back. And it shows. I suspect Pike had as much fun writing The Last Vampire as I had reading it.

This series may win no awards, but an annoying character is blown up and that’s the biggest award of all. Suffice to say, many a coma-inducing classic could use an unnecessary explosion.

As for a rating, I give this a B+ for Blockbuster.

R.I.P Challenge IV

I’ve signed up for Carl’s R.I.P Challenge. This is my first time!

Here’s my reading pool:

R.I.P Challenge Pool

1. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne de Mauier

2. Nothing but Ghosts by Beth Kephart

3. Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite

4. Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

I’ve picked Peril the Second, which requires me to read 2 books of a spooky nature between September 1-October 31.  First challenge, baby steps. I might read all 4 from my pool and promote myself up to Peril the First. We’ll see.

I’m also doing the Short Story Peril.

My selection: Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories

Christopher Pike Reissued

Big news! Christopher Pike’s Last Vampire series receives a cover makeover.

Before…

After…

The first edition, Thirst No. 1 includes 3 novels: The Last Vampire, Black Blood, Red Dice.

The second edition, Thirst No. 2 includes: Phantom, Evil Thirst, Creatures of Forever.

Release date: August 4, 2009.

While I’ve read my share of Pike in the ’90’s, I haven’t read his Last Vampire series.  Frankly, I’m a little over the entire vampire YA craze, but it’s Pike, folks! I guess I could squeeze in one more vamp book before I put the ban on vamps altogether.

The Midnight Club

The term “Emo” didn’t exist when I was in 7th grade, but I suspect I must have been a bit Emo because one of my favorite books at that time was about a group of teenagers dying of terminal cancer. No need to do a double take, you read that sentence right. This book was called The Midnight Club by Christopher Pike and despite the seemingly depressing subject matter, I read it multiple times.

It’s been years since I’ve last read it, but I can still remember the plot and some of the characters’ names. There’s a hospice located on a rocky cliff where a group of terminally ill teens meet at midnight to tell stories. They tell scary stories, stories of life, love, hope, friendship, and life after death. One night, they make a pact that the first one in the group to die will try to come back and tell them all what it’s like on the other side. For some strange reason, I remember the characters by what type of cancer they had. Isn’t that morbid?

I mention The Midnight Club now, not so much because I want to discuss the book, but more so because I’ve still got my mind on cover art.

The Midnight Club front cover and backside blurb is a perfect example of false marketing. Since the author is Christopher Pike, publishers marketed this book as a supernatural thriller about people coming back from the dead. In actuality, this whole “he who dies first must come back” catch is only a small part of the plot and when it does happen, it’s done in such a tasteful way that it leaves you feeling sad, not scared.

midnight-club.jpg

The cover is deceptive. Nowhere in the book does Death appear in front of the dying kids and teach them a lesson in what appears to be charades.

Looking back at all the Christopher Pike books I’ve read, I realized that Pike was deeper than you would expect from a YA horror/suspense fiction writer. There was always something more to his YA stories than your average teen scare-fest. He wrote about reincarnation, forgiveness, friendship, first-love, loyalty—oh, I’m getting nostalgic just thinking about it.

That being said, whatever happened to Christopher Pike anyways? I haven’t seen him publish a book in years and whenever I journey over to the YA section at Borders or Barnes and Nobles, I don’t see any of his old books in print anymore. Nowadays, the only place you can find Christopher Pike books are online or at the library. My library still has a copy of the first edition hardback of The Midnight Club and other early ’90’s hardback editions. Paperback copies are non-existent. The dated cover art probably discourages today’s teen readers from checking out the book; do they even know who Christopher Pike is anymore?