You know how something that seems so wrong turns out so right. Yeah, and that’s this novel.
It kinda started as a dare–some joking around with how Amish romances are crazy popular in the Christian Fiction circles, and how speculative fiction is NOT, but vampires are sure crazy popular in secular horror and fantasy. So, a mash-up. Amish. Vampires. Sci-Fi/Space.
AMISH VAMPIRES IN SPACE. The mash-up.
I avoided the novel last year cause I thought it was gonna be hokey.
I judged a book by campy title. (The cover, however, is kinda cool–well done, I think, from a design and “catch the eye” perspective.)
I was wrong.
The novel is not perfect. There are times where it lags a bit, especially in the first third, and where sentence fragments are a bit overused, again, in the first chapters. But once the set-up is done and we’re full swing into the dominoes of complications, this novel is great, great fun and has some good theological insights.
The action and suspense is VERY good. How the pacifistic Amish and the besieged space guilders have to deal with a vampiric menace makes for a page-turner. (The author explains the vampires in a cool way that’s not “it’s an ancient evil” sort of thing.) But it’s a page-turner with stuff to say, and it respects faith traditions, even when you can tell the author is arguing against certain intransigences of isolated groups.
Christian readers who may have avoided it thinking it was a lot of worldly-catering hooey–them Englishers and their mash-up profane ways!–are dead wrong. This is a very God-honoring novel that manages to be true to the space horror genre and the Amish fiction genre without dishonoring the good teaching in Scripture about community, caring, self-sacrifice, pride, who one’s neighbor is, etc. The hero, Jebediah, is a truly honorable man of conscience, and by the end of this book, you really wish the best for him and his wife–they are good folks. In fact, there are a lot of good folks in this novel, and some flawed ones. They all act according to what they perceive to be the right thing, and have to re-evaluate whether they’ve made mistakes.
Some very cool plot twists, too, working the vampire lore in nifty ways. All I”m gonna say now is: the goat. Oh, the goat. And the chicken. hahahaha
(no spoilers, go read it for yourself.)
It’s a futuristic tale that has enough of those cool retro space opera elements (making up terms for things, giving those lines that create in the mind a culture that’s gone beyond ours, while the Amish as counterpoint try to stay exactly the same.) All the extremes have things they do wrong, and there is character growth and change.
It’s good storytelling in a weird premise. But the premise works.
This novel and its author, Kerry Nietz, have had to endure some ribbing and criticism from the Christian reading/writing community. When the publishing house that originally published AMISH VAMPIRES IN SPACE was sold to agent Steve Laube, this was one of the few books he refused to buy. Mr. Nietz went on to publish it himself. Then Jimmy Fallon and others have made fun–one site said the cover was one of the worst of the year, which is just plain stupid. The cover rocks. Jimmy (see video) put it jokingly on his “do not read” list. But you know, if he’s smart, he’ll read it and option the film rights. This would make a very fun flick. WITNESS meets DRACULA meets ALIEN.
The novel is nominated in the long list for the CLIVE STAPLES AWARD. It’s the second novel I’m nominating for its chutzpah mash-uppiness. I do want THE CONSTANT TOWER TO WIN, but if this “judge not via cover” novel makes the shortlist and wins, I wouldn’t be sad. If it sells a whole lot and brings piles of cash into Mr. Nietz’s bank account, I will be very happy for him. Took guts to put this out there, knowing he’d be the object of ridicule and criticism.
I suspect his guts is gonna be nicely rewarded.
While there is some bits of prose glitchiness in parts, it’s mostly smooth and fun reading, and utterly page-turning from about 1/3rd in. And it has a lovely little heart. Try it.
Available as a Kindle book RIGHT HERE.
Available as a Nookbook RIGHT HERE.
The novel’s page over at the Clive Staples Award blog is HERE.
A Goodreads review here.