Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires
Hells Kitchen Press, 1997
I feel kind of bad reviewing this book since it isn’t in print anymore and doesn’t seem to available for less then $32 from used vendors; I’ll do my best to keep this short. Its limited availability is unfortunate since it was a thoroughly enjoyable read chock full of awesome. During a time where many have begun to bemoan the lack of originality in the vampire tale or, perhaps more commonly, the “defanging” of the vampire Altman’s Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires is both an original take on the vampire story and simultaneously a defanging and an elevation of badassery. While it possible to read this as a spoof I think that it comes off with a whole lot more B-movie charm and an air of detached cool that elevates a notch (or three) above your average horror spoof. It is, in essence, an mash-up of martial arts action and vampiric horror that is an exciting and engrossing read.
Narrated by an unnamed vampire Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires is written as combination treatise on the titular Art and biographical memoir. While it might seem odd that a book about slaying vampires is narrated by a vampire it should be noted that very early on the reader learns that the narrator is different from other vampires. His touch is anathema to true vampires and he has overcome his blood lust to reach an enlightened state. In between describing the philosophy of the shadowy, vampire slaying, Ministry and the life and mindset of the Vampire slayer the narrator reveals his own tale: how he was turned, and his own personal journey of self-discovery.
With a wonderful Eastern flavor thanks to its musings on Zen philosophy from multiple veins Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires is as much about the Zen as it is about the Slaying. Exciting action and wonderfully crafted world aside the novel is perhaps more impressive in that fact that it manages to pack a completely cogent and fascinating meditation on the perception of differences between humans and vampires as they relate to life and existence. An impressive feat for book of only 169 pages.
As mentioned without any lengthy exposition Altman manages to craft a pretty complete picture of his world of Zen Vampire Slayers. While we don’t a complete detailing of the Ministry’s history and inner workings we do manage to get an excellent glimpse of how they operate but it never comes across in a huge info-dump but rather as part and parcel of the novel’s action. Other then a alternation between philosophical musings and biographical rumination Altman, and our narrator, never break their narrative stride that, had I had the time, could have easily been read in an entire sitting.
Unfortunately, as mentioned above, Zen in the Art of the Slaying Vampires, is out of print and isn’t even available in electronic form. My first exposure to the work came through word that there is supposed to be a film version in the works but I haven’t read any news on that front in over a year. Admittedly I have unabashed bias for fiction that passes itself off as truth, particularly when that pertains to work with a supernatural bent, so I am perhaps a little biased in that regard but, if you have some cash to spare I highly recommend tracking down a copy.