on Jan. 3, 2011 :
I enjoyed Spiral X quite a bit, which was surprising because I've read my fill of female vampire hunters over the past few years. It is obvious that there is more intended for the main character, Cheryl, so some things are left unexplained as is typical with a continuing series. The story itself is self-contained and resolves itself nicely, so the larger mysteries are the "hook" to get people to read more books. Even without that, however, I'd say that the world created is interesting enough that I would want to keep reading.
In particular, the author's take on vampires is one I've never seen anywhere, and actually makes complete sense. If he came up with that all on his own, I have to say that I'm impressed. Vampires have been done to death recently, so anything both new and non-sparkly is a welcome surprise. The hunters and the larger "organization" that becomes involved was also handled quite nicely and believably. Well, as believably as anything that involves hunting down vampires, obviously.
One thing that stood out to me is that, except for one or two moments, it made virtually no difference that the main character was female. I'm wondering then what prompted the author to decide she was going to be female. It isn't a bad thing that she is, but as I noted there are a plethora of female vampire hunters nowadays. It was certainly refreshing to read one that didn't include all sorts of kinky, erotic sex, that's for sure, but almost everything about her was asexual, so there must have been something behind his decision. Also, one of her overtly "feminine" traits (the "pouty face") seemed unnecessary. Believe me, I've seen such a face and fallen victim to it far too many times to count, so I understand what the intent behind it was, but it seemed sort of tacked on. It wasn't bad, but just didn't need to be there I felt.
I won't get into any specific plot details, but the writing was well done and conveyed the story in an easy to digest manner. There was just the right amount of exposition and figuring things out to balance out the action, which there was quite a bit of. The characters were instantly distinct and recognizable, which is often a pet peeve of mine. There is nothing I hate more than a book where I need to keep notes to tell characters apart. While I realize that people in real life often have names, looks, or traits very similar to each other, in a fictional novel there's no need for that and only serves to confuse the reader. That was simply not an issue here. Every character was introduced and became immediately recognizable, all without extensive exposition describing them. Same with the locations and settings. Just enough detail was given to let me imagine it in my head, and that's it. That's exactly how I want my books to read, and this book was perfect in that regard.
As mentioned earlier, there are some mysteries that are left unsolved, on purpose I have to imagine. Ignoring those, the main storyline was interesting enough to keep me reading, but not so complex that it somehow gets resolved before I'm even aware of it or without really knowing why, which happens more often than it should. Like a good detective story, the plot proceeded from one clue to another, and the surprises were believable and well-implemented. Besides the purposely unexplained elements, the ending was realistic and believable, with no deus ex machina swooping in to save the day. It could have been deeper and more involved, with lots of subplots and distractions, but it didn't need to be and didn't suffer due to their lack. And the first person perspective, which doesn't bother me at all, helps limit the aforementioned distractions.
I would read a second novel immediately, and anticipate that one will be even better as the author's writing talent increases. Get this book, it's a steal at the normal price, let alone discounted prices.
(reviewed 62 days after purchase)
on Jan. 2, 2011 :
Cheryl is a Hunter. A Vampire Hunter. Not only that, but she's so good at what she does that the Underworld has a contract out on her. She has the best percentage of Vampire kills in any district and, if that weren't enough, she's about to become drawn into a big, secretive drug deal that has the ability to change the world as she knows it. Not only does Plast have a detrimental and violent effect on humans, it's central to a heinous plan to create a new breed of Vampire that won't succumb to the usual weaponry. In addition to her usual sidekicks Tank and Virgil, Cheryl meets a mysterious Hunter with an unusual past and some interesting connections, who joins them in the never-ending battle against the Underworld and the drug that's fueling their leader's plans.
J. J. Westendarp has created in Cheryl a woman who can kick butt and take no prisoners, yet, even with that sense of duty, has a softer side for the human "victims" who have chosen to serve Vampires. Cheryl is very likable and sympathetic, even as she exudes power and control. She's reminiscent of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," with some "Blade" thrown in. I could easily see this story as a movie or a TV action series. Cheryl had all the elements you'd expect in an action hero: a tortured past that gave rise to her current profession, a few trusted associates, a true devotion to saving the world, and the ability to kick ass while still keeping a sense of humor. Overall, all of the characters fit nicely in the mold of typical action figures, and I really found myself rooting for Cheryl in the story.
Although an enjoyable and fast-paced read, it was a too neatly tied up for my taste. The surprises are a little too predictable, and the connections between people and events a little too convenient and simplistic. Neat, but a little too neat. Much of the dialogue was trite, with explanations and events that seemed too perfectly organized. They fit the mold of an action story, but there wasn't anything extraordinary or special that got me excited. Instead of feeling like I was immersed in the action, I felt like I was watching a play onstage with everything perfectly scripted.
The story is nicely written and the writing style was very readable and interesting, with no more than a handful of obvious typographical errors.
A perfect read for those who love fast-paced action stories with a paranormal basis.
3.5 /5 stars @ MotherLode blog
(reviewed 40 days after purchase)