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Review: Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lost Souls
Poppy Z. Brite

Genre: HorrorUrban Fantasy
Paperback: 384 Pages
Publication: September 10, 1993
by Dell


At a club in Missing Mile, N.C., the children of the night gather, dressed in black, looking for acceptance. Among them are Ghost, who sees what others do not. Ann, longing for love, and Jason, whose real name is Nothing, newly awakened to an ancient, deathless truth about his father, and himself.

Others are coming to Missing Mile tonight. Three beautiful, hip vagabonds - Molochai, Twig, and the seductive Zillah (whose eyes are as green as limes) are on their own lost journey; slaking their ancient thirst for blood, looking for supple young flesh.

They find it in Nothing and Ann, leading them on a mad, illicit road trip south to New Orleans. Over miles of dark highway, Ghost pursues, his powers guiding him on a journey to reach his destiny, to save Ann from her new companions, to save Nothing from himself...


Lost Souls is a clever spin on the coming-of-age story with a focus on the character Nothing, who comes to discover his mixed heritage (human and vampire) and realizes that, after years of feeling like an outcast in the human world, he can live as he pleases in good company with vampires.

As someone who has been obsessed with vampires since the age of seven, I absolutely loved this new take on the supernatural creatures. Unlike your traditional vampires where humans die and are transformed with a bite, these vamps are a separate race entirely. They are similar enough to humans to crossbreed with them but otherwise are completely different. Brite also makes an interesting distinction between young and old vampires: younger vampires can eat like humans, can walk around in sunlight, and have to sharpen their teeth. Older vampires can walk in the sun as long as they cover their skin and eyes, naturally have fangs, and rely solely on blood for nourishment.

The characterizations are pretty good. This novel was the expansion of a novella Brite had written before titled “The Seed of Lost Souls,” which is basically an incredibly compressed version of Lost Souls. A huge plus of the novel version is earned by the characterization and role expansion of the vampires, as well as the inclusion of Steve and Ghost into the plot. The way Steve and Ghost fit into the story works incredibly well. This novel serves as a more in-depth look at the beloved pair, who are arguably Brite’s most popular characters. We even get the story of how they met as children. For any established Brite or S&G fans, it expands their relationship and serves as a way to “catch up” with them. Even if you’re a first time Brite reader, you learn a lot about them and get to know them really well.

Descriptions are incredibly lush throughout the novel, a signature of Brite. As a New Orleans native himself, Brite gives an accurate and beautiful portrayal of the city, especially the French Quarter. Descriptions can get graphic, especially during the scenes when the vampires kill. Trust me, this is *not* a book for sensitive readers. A common thread in Brite novels is the thorough description and somewhat wry treatment of incredibly gruesome moments. As author Dan Simmons once very accurately said, Brite “combines the sensibilities of a poet with the unflinching eye of a surgeon.”

As a Goth myself, it was a lot of fun spotting references from within the subculture. My copy of Lost Souls was a present from an older Goth friend who had grown up in the scene and could relate to some of the events in the book. Even if you've never heard of Bauhaus or have no idea how the song "Bela Lugosi's Dead" goes, there is enough in the book to give you an idea of some of the elements of Goth culture. I don't identify with everything in the book one hundred percent, but I can definitely agree with some of the things Brite points out about young Goths.

One big downside I found in the novel was the lack of backstory on the vampires. While we get a brief mention of how Zillah came to take Molochai and Twig under his wing, nothing else is told on where any of them were before then. There are many hints dropped here and there about Christian’s past (he’s lived in several places, he’s tended bars for centuries, and his name is a family name), but they are very brief and almost vague. It could just be me wanting more since Christian is one of my favorite fictional characters, but I think it would be interesting to see some of his past and whether or not it influences him and his role in the group later on.

Additionally, while it wasn’t a problem for me, some people might be turned off by the way the chapters alternate in storyline. A chapter focusing on Christian could be followed by a Lost Souls? chapter then a Nothing chapter, you get the idea. This isn’t a book meant to be sped through. You really have to take your time reading it; otherwise, you might lose track of the alternating storylines.

If you’re looking for something that will make vampires interesting and fun again (as I was when I first received this novel as a college freshman), an alternate version of the coming-of-age tale, or a quick lesson on nineties Goth culture, this is the book for you. Though the story’s main protagonist is a half-vampire, readers can relate to the feelings of being misunderstood, wanting to find a place where they can belong, and ultimately coming to terms with their identity.

Additional Information
  • N/A

Similar Books
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  • Sweetblood by Pete Hautman

  • Gore
  • Violence
  • Sex 
  • Rape
  • Drug references

2 comments on "Review: Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite"
  1. LOVE it when these kinds of stories have awesome characterization!!

    The concept sounds awesome :)

    Lovely review :)

    1. Thank you very much! This is actually my favorite novel that I've read so far, and I absolutely loved it the first time I read it a few years ago. It's definitely a refresher on vampires, and it was a lot of fun. Kind of gruesome at moments but tamer than some of Brite's later work.


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