The Last Vampire 2: Black Blood
by Christopher Pike
The Last Vampire 2: Black Blood picks up about six weeks after the events of the first book and brings Alana/Sita to a dangerous neighborhood in Los Angeles. The depictions of Black characters in the opening chapter are very problematic and have not aged well. That said, it was nowhere near as egregious as the depictions in Remember Me 2. Beyond that, I think the book did a good job of expanding the story and raising the stakes from the first book. Sita finds herself newly vulnerable, which was a refreshing change. It also gave us a new villain that could make almost anyone’s skin crawl. I usually like a more nuanced villain, but if you’re gonna go full evil you may as make him a sociopathic scumbag. The book also featured some more explosions and kept the plot moving at a steady pace. I can honestly say I never knew where the story was going to go. That’s always a plus. I liked the addition of the FBI agent Joel as a character, but Ray became a real drag. I almost got the sense that Pike himself lost interest in the very thin love story between Ray and Sita. Overall, I have to say that been liking The Last Vampire books more than I expected to. I’m not the biggest fan of vampires, but The Last Vampire 2 continues Pike’s trend of bringing something fresh to familiar tropes.
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Recap & Observations:
The Last Vampire 2 picks up six weeks after Sita blew up her house and killed Yaksha. She is still in pain from being impaled during the explosion, but that doesn’t stop her from jet-setting to LA. There’s been a string of headlines about some brutal murders that Sita knows must be vampires the work of vampires, and Sita intends to put a quick end to it. That’s how she ends up in the streets of a rough neighborhood after midnight. First, she humiliates three would-be rapists with her super vampiric powers. And before you ask, yes they were Black and this whole scene was one long cringe. I’ll have more on that in a minute. After thwarting her attackers, Sita takes off after the scent of a fleeing vampire. She catches up to him at the Coliseum and realizes she’s been led into a trap.
It turns out there are three young Black male vampires and a creepy white guy who appears to be their leader. Sita is able to kill the three young vampires when they attack her, but their leader turns out to be a challenge. Somehow, he moves like Yaksha. He catches her knife in mid-air when she throws it at him, and he sends it back to her faster than she can dodge. She ends up seriously injured but manages to get her hands on a gun from a dead security guard. She sinks at least 4 bullets into him but it only slows him down slightly. He backs off and lets her escape. Outside she crosses paths with an FBI agent named Joel. He’s suspicious of her but also intrigued. She gives him a fake number, gets his real one, then flies back to Oregon.
Now is as good a time as any to pause and talk about the racial representation in the first chapter. We had a total of six black characters introduced. Three of them were attempted rapists, the other three were inferior vampires who were quickly killed. I know this was a product of its time but that didn’t make it any more fucked up to read. I’m not saying that every PoC character a white author writes needs to be representative of only good things and can never die. The problem here is that three of the characters were rooted in some really ugly stereotypes, and the other three died without ever getting names. When those are your only nonwhite characters in the book, you have a representation problem. Between this and Remember Me 2, I’m hoping Pike steers clear of writing PoC characters in his other books. It pains me to say that because one of my favorite things about Pike as a writer is the way he does complex, nuanced, and often very twisted characters. Thankfully it was only one chapter here.
Back in Oregon Sita realizes that Yaksha must have somehow survived the explosion, though she can’t figure out how. She herself had been unconscious and recovering in the first days after it. She knows she needs to get a look at the police files but even with all of her connections that will be hard to do without drawing more attention to herself. So she calls Joel, the FBI guy. She convinces him that he needs to meet her in Oregon because she has information that can crack open his case. He reluctantly complies. He manages to get the police files on her exploded house and confirms that a body was indeed recovered. They go to the morgue where it was brought to only to find that the torso was stolen by their creepiest employee. Gah, I hate it when that happens.
It turns out that an employee named Eddie Fender took a liking to the body and disappeared with it a week later. One of the employees tells Sita about a creepy date one girl went on with him where he made her watch snuff films with him all night then locked her in a closet and made her suck on popsicles all night. That’s because Eddie Fender is a true, genuine, shit stain of a human being. Sita is able to fill in the blanks regarding the corpse. Clearly, it was Yaksha and the explosion hadn’t completely killed him. Vampires are notoriously hard to kill, after all. Creepy Eddie has Yaksha’s body and has been clearly dosing himself with Yaksha’s blood. Sita knows he is going to be hard to beat but is even more determined after finding out what a vile person Eddie is. No one should have the power Yaksha wielded, and it could not have fallen into worse hands than Eddie Fenders.
Joel flies back to LA while Sita and Ray draw up a plan. That’s right, Ray still exists. He’s like an echo of a character after having been such a focal point in the first book. Ray has been not been adjusting well to being a vampire. He really struggles in the sunlight and doesn’t like drinking blood. Sita can’t talk him out of going back to LA with her, so she lets him in on the plan to take Eddie out. First, she takes him to feed on the beach. They find a young couple but Ray lets the girl run. A frustrated and hungry Sita goes after her and accidentally takes too much, killing the girl. They then go and visit Eddie’s mother who turns out to be equally grimy. Sita wastes little time with her and rips the information she needs out of the woman. She also notices an odd walk-in freezer attached to the house; turns out creepy Eddie used to be a creepy ice cream man back in the day. If there is still an ice cream truck, Sita’s willing to bet that is where Yaksha is being held captive.
Sita scopes out the place Eddie and his new legion of vampires are headquartered. They wait for the night to end and the hoard of vampires to return from their night of feeding. Sita then kills their vampire guard dogs with a sniper rifle, because vampire marksmanship is a thing we established in the last book. After that, Sita and Ray park the oil tankers they stole on either side of the warehouse and get ready to light them all up. Only Eddie anticipates them and takes Ray hostage. Sita realizes that Eddie wants her alive because she has skills and knowledge that he doesn’t, and tries to work that angle while gas spills out at their feet. But Eddie is too fast for Sita to shoot. Ray realizes there is no beating him and takes the opportunity to light his fuze before Sita can stop him. The warehouse goes up, and Ray’s short existence goes up with it.
Sita wakes up in a hotel room with Joel. Joel has shown up right as the explosion had gone off and found Sita. He initially believed she was dead, almost burnt beyond recognition. But we all know she doesn’t die that easily. Sita is devastated by Ray’s death. She accepts Joel’s help in getting some new clothes, then tells him to stay away if he wants to live. She goes and finds the ice cream truck parked near the exploded warehouse, fucks with a few police officers to get it out of the area without any questions, then drives out of LA. Sure enough, Yaksha is in the back. Vampires can survive the cold, but they don’t heal as fast. Eddie had been keeping Yaksha with open wounds in the cold freezer. Sita sits with Yaksha while he finally dies and gives her the last of his blood. He also leaves her with a story that he thinks Krishna wanted her to hear. It was some kind of fable about the gift of salt or something. Gifted with Yaksha’s remaining blood, Sita buries his body in the sea and sets off to kill the fuck out of Eddie Fender.
Sita returns to Eddie’s mother and takes her captive. When Eddie calls, she realizes he is one step ahead of her yet again. This time he has Joel. She knows Eddie has some sort of attachment to his mother that she hopes will give her an upper hand. Eddie returns to the house with Joel. Both of his arms are bokeh and he’s on the verge of bleeding out. Sita negotiates Joel’s release for Eddie’s mother, but of course, that’s not what happens. Eddie mortally wounds Joel and then kills his mother himself by twisting her head off. Sita thinks of Krishna. More specifically she remembers how Krishna could control people’s emotions with his flute. He taught her the notes of the human soul long ago in a different life. She begins humming the sex note, which is what I’ve decided to call it. Between repeating the note and using her tried and true hypnotizing skills, Sita drives Eddie to lust after her. She gets the creep hornier for her than any popsicle or snuff film ever could. Then she lures him into the walk-in freezer that she’d noticed on her first visit to the house.
Eddie follows her in. He’s distracted by his libido and not used to the way the cold slows down his powers. Sita pounces on her moment and lops off Eddie’s head with the emergency escape axe. The creep is finally dead. Sita goes to find Joel. He’s lost too much blood for her to save unless she vamps him. She asks him if he would like that. He says no before passing out. Sita gives Joel her blood anyway, then promptly falls unconscious. We will have to wait until next week to find out what happens because that is how this book ends.
The Last Vampire 2 delivered on most of the important things you want in a sequel. It expanded the map, gave new depth to our protagonist, and gave seven bigger explosions. OK, maybe it could have done something other than another explosion. Eddie worked really well as a villain because he made my skin crawl. He’s exactly the last person on Earth you would want to have godlike powers. I suppose it takes a certain type of creepy fuck to steal a vampire corpse from a morgue and hold the immortal being captive in your ice cream truck. Man, I loved writing that sentence. Keep it twisted, Christopher Pike, and I’ll keep coming back. Look out for my review of The Last Vampire 3: Red Dice sometime next week!
For the scoring of each book, I decided to rate them based on five criteria worth 2 points each.
I then split that in two to give it a rating out of 5 stars. Those criteria are:
Concept: the strength of the overall idea
Execution: the mechanics of storytelling
Character: the protagonists, antagonists, and villains
Intent: does it succeed in being the kind of book it wants to be?
Originality: subversion and reliance on genre tropes
The idea of this was interesting. It raised the stakes from the first book and gave us a compelling and cringe-worthy villain.
The reliance on racial stereotypes for the opening chapter was cringy at best and really set the book off on an unfortunate tone for me. It thankfully didn’t say there and was otherwise well plotted and paced, but I’m thinking Pike should probably steer clear of writing nonwhite characters.
I enjoyed the addition of Joel, even as Ray’s storyline felt like a misfire. Eddie was also done well; he was every bit as repulsive as he was meant to be. Sita was given a flaw, which I appreciated.
I really need to change the title of this section to “intent.” I don’t find vampires scary, and scary usually demands a relatable protagonist. Sita is not that. I will still give it a point because what it lacks in scares it makes up for with brutality and gore.
Maybe I’m just green on the vampire genre, but these still feel fresh to me. I appreciated that the narrative was different and more expansive while still feeling unique.
Don’t miss the next post in the Pulp Horror blog series:
Christopher Pike’s The Last Vampire 3: Red Dice