I knew nothing of Lois Tilton’s 1990 vampire novel Vampire Winter, in fact I knew nothing of Lois TIlton even though the author had written a few fantasy novels as well as Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 novels over the years.
I never liked DS9 all that much (even though I’m a Star Trek fan) and I was not even aware of the B5 novels, which I may well have read if I had known of them.
But I cannot imagine that any of those works would be anything like Vampire Winter.
I would hesitate in calling Blaine Kitteridge, the vampire who wakes to a whole new world, as the novel’s hero, but it is hard to think of him as anything else. Perhaps he is more of a hero because of what he is and what his biology drive him to do; perhaps warring against himself to be better is what a hero really is.
Kitteridge wakes one day to Armageddon. Literal nuclear Armageddon. Bombs fly and cities burn. Kitteridge wakes and flees the devastation under the veil of atomic dust that settles in the atmosphere, blocking out the sun that would kill him. The vampire flees and hides and it is only when his hiding place is invaded by would-be looters that something amazing occurs.
Blaine Kitteridge discovers that the sun has not yet returned, and the veil of darkness still holds over the land. He discovers that that only thing to which he is truly vulnerable, the sun, is now powerless, and he can walk the day that is no longer day.
Kitteridge dubs it Nightfall and anticipates the heaven the new world will be for his kind.
But things are no so simple for Kitteridge in Nightfall. There are marauders killing indiscriminately, wasting precious blood, and it does not take Kitteridge long to realise just how precious blood has become. Some people are tainted, radiation making them useless for his needs, and Kitteridge realises that if he wishes to survive he must protect those who can sustain him from those who cannot.
Blaine Kitteridge, vampire and predator becomes Blaine Kitteridge, reluctant protector.
But all those he must protect would rather not be cattle, because of course, that’s all they really are.
Over the years I have read many vampire novels, an unhealthy amount some think, and though many of them have been entertaining reads few rose to a quality that allowed them to stay in my mind for long.
There are obvious examples that have of course, but their number range in the tens, not hundreds, and real quality and originality is often few and far between.
I feel fortunate to add another book to the short list of vampire novels that I see as having “true quality”.
Of course this is subjective, extremely so, but its hard to imagine that many would argue that the book that Lois Tilton has produced displays such quality. Not only did the author manage to combine two very different sub-genres of book, vampire fiction with post-apocalyptic fiction, but she managed to combine them in a cinematic way that begs to be made into a movie.
While depravity rages on around Kitteridge, Lois TIlton manages to draw the humanity out of him. Its a long process, a painful one, and Kitteridge himself seems unaware of the fact that he slowly begins to see the people around him as companions rather than just food. What begins as their mere utility to him becomes a value that mystifies Kitteridge. He feels this value, but he does not understand it.
Ultimately Blaine Kitteridge does not realise that, human or not, with each passing day in Nightfall he is becoming more human than many of the humans around him.