Radleys, The

Rating: 
3

I know what you're thinking: "Oh dear, another vampire novel? Yawn." But there's something irresistible about "The Radleys," Matt Haig's novel about a family of vampires living in a quiet English village.

For one thing, Helen and Peter Radley are nonpracticing vampires -- they don't kill humans or animals for blood -- and they're not only raising their teenage children, Rowan and Clara, the same way, but they are also keeping their true nature a secret from them.

(In Haig's creation, vampires can reproduce the way humans do, as opposed to conversion by blood-drinking. This is one of several ways the novel flouts conventional vampire lore.)

Clara and Rowan are miserable, and it's not just from normal teenage angst or being constantly bullied at school. Rowan, for example, is plagued with rashes due to his ultra-sensitivity to the sun. Clara has opted to go vegan in the hope that it will earn her karmic points with the animals that already flee from her on sight (as they sense her true nature), but it's having deleterious effects on her health.

When Clara fends off a would-be rapist in a manner that, shall we say, awakens her, Helen and Peter are forced to reveal who and what they all are and to call on Peter's brother Will -- an unapologetic, very-much-practicing vampire -- to help cover up Clara's ... indiscretion.

"The Radleys" is full of clever turns, darkly hilarious spins on what is to many a tired subject. We're introduced to Will at a convenience store, where he buys wet wipes and dental floss -- of course.

Helen and Peter live by "The Abstainer's Handbook," passages of which are interspersed throughout the novel. The handbook preaches repressing one's instincts and conforming to societal expectations. "We are civilized, and civilization only works if instincts are suppressed," Helen reminds Peter, quoting from the handbook.

There are a few eye-rolling moments as Haig uses the Radley family as a way of critiquing our collective obsession with appearing normal, when "normality" itself is freakishly unnatural, but mostly he handles this theme with a light satirical touch.

Although the ending doesn't quite live up to the strength of the story as a whole, stuttering out over a few pages too many, it in no way feels interminable or dull. On the contrary, even if you're suffering from vampire fatigue, you'll find "The Radleys" is a fun, fresh contribution to the genre.

 

-- review by Michelle Wiener

Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?

Vol. 1 No. 8
Pages of Death
Vol. 1 No. 1
Vampirella meets Creepy and Eerie