V Wars, edited by Jonathan Maberry, is a collection of stories set in the same world but written by a bevy of talented authors.
In the world Maberry creates in V Wars, a prehistoric virus has been released from polar ice, awakening recessive genes in the human genome. The virus triggers changes in some humans, awakening physical changes that are varied and dramatic. Before long, vampires walk among us. Some are benign; many are not.
Maberry’s collection of tales does well and more credibly what X-Men (at least the movies–I’m not familiar with the comics) tries to do: it portrays a genetic mutation that changes a portion of humanity, causing ostracization, fear, violence, and, of course, government action. I’ve always been dubious about what the reaction to the X-Men. After all, the powers they have seem to be magical and useful. On the other hand, the mutations in V Wars result in a change that seems to drive its mutants to, well, suck blood.
That seems a bit more against the public interest than the power to start fires, freeze objects, levitate, or any of the other number of changes that Stan Lee’s X-Men undergo.
Maberry does an excellent job tying the stories together with a common story that intersperses the tales. While the majority of the stories seem to take place in and around the American northeast, especially New York City, V-Wars treats readers to a semi-global perspective, with stories from the American southern border with Mexico, in the shadows of the Appalachian Mountains, and one that crisscrosses the globe, starting in Antarctica, jetting off to Romania, and stopping through France, too. Some times we read from the vampire’s perspective; other times, from the humans. Maberry breaks up the stories, too, giving the collection something of novel-like feeling.
As interesting as the collection is, the stories are not all created equal, and it’s part of the reason I had a hard time settling on just three stars. I wanted badly to give the book four stars–but several of the stories disappointed, even bored me.
They were few, however, and generally the stories were creative and enjoyable, if occasionally not for the faint of heart. Here are a few of my favorites:
“Stalking Anna Lei” by James A. Moore brings together legends of vampires from East Asia, as John Lei searches for his sister while navigating the dangerous world of Asian gangs amid reports of a monstrous creature that seems to be haunting his every step. Told from John’s perspective, Moore has a great voice that makes his story one of the most enjoyable, and his plotting makes the final twist satisfying and unexpected.
“Vulpes” by Gregory Frost begins in Antarctica and trails Ruksana back to her home in Romania. Beware, though: when the change comes to her, the results are anything but vampiric.
Yvonne Navarro’s “Epiphany” asks what happens when society’s most weak go through the vampiric change, trading vulnerabilities for superhuman power. Red Moon is the orphaned daughter of Native Americans, raped, pregnant, and infected by the virus. Beset by changes she cannot explain, she finds herself on the edge of motherhood in a world that threatens to destroy her for the changes that have come over her.
V-Wars deserves a second installment. It is, in many ways, only the opening chapter in the new world that emerges as vampire and human eye each other and wonder if they will live together or in conflict.