Wednesday, 29 September 2021

The Hunger - Whitley Strieber


I enjoyed The Hunger much more than expected.  I expected a typical horror story of the era - sub-Stephen King with lots of sex and gore.  Actually, Strieber never uses the word 'vampire' at all but argues for a separate yet twinned species descended from the Lamia (see Keats and Apollonius of Tyre).  Miriam Blaylock may just be that Lamia, a child during the fall of Troy, now resident in New York City in a specially reinforced townhouse.

Sarah Roberts, meanwhile, is a specialist sleep researcher at the Riverside Centre.  She is currently seeking a cure for ageing, in non-scientific terms, the elixir of life.  Her experiments with Rhesus monkeys has spectacularly failed, and her programme may be shut down - until Miriam Blaylock walks in complaining of night terrors.

Miriam and Sarah both have problematic male partners.  John is an 18th century gentleman converted by Miriam who is facing up to the uncomfortable reality that whilst Miriam might be to all intents and purposes immortal, her converts are not.  They age visibly by the minute, consumed by the Hunger but suddenly denied the restorative Sleep. Sarah's partner Tom Havers is a business-oriented medic whose ambition is to rise to the top of the medical world.  Like John, he genuinely loves his woman but also like John he cannot understand the passion that drives her.

The upshot is truly compelling, genuinely thrilling at all the right times.

Strieber's contribution to the vampire studies is the concept of vampiric blood (it is the blood itself which makes the change), which must have been genuinely terrifying during the decade of HIV.  Secondly, he confronts the question of what happens to an immortal being denied of nourishment.  They don't die because they can't and yet they are beyond the point of recovery either through being deprived of sustenance or dismemberment and dispersal.  Fascinating.

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