The Last Vampire 3: Red Dice
by Christopher Pike
The Last Vampire 3: Red Dice opens with some of the wildest action in the series so far. It cemented my feeling that these books could adapt really well in the right hands. Christopher Pike once again does a good job of raising the stakes so it never feels like a complete retread of the past. We get glimpses of different parts of Sita’s past, which I felt was well-balanced. It gave us just the right amount of information while keeping the story going. Unlike the last book, I didn’t care for the big villain of this story. I don’t like when villains are cartoonishly evil; I prefer the complex and nuanced types Pike excels at creating. In this same vein, I was a little disappointed with the treatment of Joel in this book. He had a really interesting set, but any sort of promising arc he might have had ultimately got lost in the desert. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the overreliance on massive explosions in this series. Sure, they’re lots of fun. But there has been precisely one in each book so far. I think this may speak to the challenge of writing an all-powerful character like Sita. One has to go to such ridiculous lengths to kill or even challenge her that you run out of options quickly. The ending set things up for an interesting Book 4. I’ll be taking a break on these until next year, but I look forward to picking them back up. All in all, The Last Vampire 3 was another solid edition of the series.
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It might not seem like much, but it has a big impact!
Recap & Observations:
The Last Vampire 3 kicks off with a fantastic action sequence. Sita wakes up when she senses people are on the way. Joel has almost no time to process that he was made a vampire against his wishes before Sita douses the living room in gasoline. She doesn’t know what the police are after but she knows they can’t get their hands on the late Eddie Fender’s blood. Joel thinks he can do his FBI thing and talk their way out of it, but it just gets him arrested and cuffed. Sita sets the house ablaze and turns herself in as well. She can’t let them capture Joel, either. Which means a whole lot of S.W.A.T. officers are about to die. It was the following series of events that convinced me The Last Vampire books would make for an excellent series adaptation. Looks like it has been in development hell since at least 2013. Maybe the success of The Midnight Club on Netflix can jumpstart that again.
Sita ends up killing all but one S.W.A.T. officer in their vehicle. The one she keeps alive gives her information on just how big of a force they are dealing with. It is much larger than Sita was expecting; someone in the government or military knows what Sita is capable of. She crashes the S.W.A.T. car while sparing the one dude’s life, takes out a helicopter from the ground, then she and Joel steal a car. Sita can feel that she is much more powerful now with Yaksha’s blood. Joel is really uncomfortable with all the killings because he is still an FBI agent at heart. Sita tells him it’s the better alternative than allowing their blood to fall into the hands of the US military complex. They drive to an LA luxury high-rise knowing that they are being followed. Sita brings Joel up to the top and then proceeds to jump from building to building in search of one that has a helicopter she can steal.
She eventually crashes through a window in a building that has one. She takes out another police helicopter that dares to get too close. The security guard on the roof watched her arrive and doesn’t stand in her way. He’s too close to retirement. She steals the helicopter, rescues Joel, then heads into the desert. The military sends two apache helicopters after them. Sita knows they can’t outrun them. Her best bet is to stage a crash in a lake and hope they don’t know to look for her. The only flaw in her plan turns out to be that Joel can’t swim and none of the other insanity. She makes Joel jump anyway. She jumps too just as the Apaches open fire. When she comes back to consciousness, she sees the military has swarmed the lake and captured Joel. Here’s a good place to point out that if Sita had just let Joel die as he had wanted, she would have been free to disappear back into the world. But now she has a major problem that she created. There’s a bit of karmic justice there. Next up: Sita steals a car from a family that’s camping and follows the military caravan to a heavily fortified base just outside of Las Vegas.
Sita uses her newly heightened senses to survey the base from a distance. She knows that it is too heavily fortified for her to just barge in and start fucking shit up. She is able to pinpoint the lead scientist and follows him from the base. His name is Andrew Kane and he has large amounts of debt and a serious gambling addiction. Sita spies on him for a night then forges a new identity as a redhead and makes a point to befriend him at the casino the following night. She uses some vampire skills to win coins and attract his attention. She finds out that he likes the work he does, but hates his boss at the compound. After a second night, she gets him to open up even more. He shows her the vampire DNA that they are close to cracking. Sita sees the DNA model and is immediately reminded of an echo of her past. More specifically, when she had an affair with a priest during the Inquisition in the twelfth century. Because of course she did.
Back in twelfth-century Italy, Sita fell in love with an ambitious young priest name Arturo who worked secretly as an alchemist. He had ambitions to recreate the blood of Christ and hoped to use Sita’s blood in order to do it. His intention was to elevate humanity to the next level and believed the work he was doing was for the good of humanity. Sita took part in his experiments because she hoped to become human again, and she wanted to have a child. While his intentions were pure in aiding humanity, he began to lose perspective. He experimented on their mutual friend Ralphe behind Sita’s back. The test failed miserably. Instead of creating an immortal human, he turned Ralphe into an animal with vampiric powers. He slaughtered numerous people in town. Sita was forced to kill him herself. It wasn’t long before Arturo was exposed. He refused to speak to Sita about what went wrong, and so she testified against him. It was the only way she could see to prevent his experimentation from continuing. She believed he had been burned at the stake… until now.
Sita finally tells Andrew Kane who she really is and convinces him to sneak her into the government compound. He takes a little convincing, but he’s persuaded. He agrees with Sita that the blood cannot fall into the General’s hands. Sita calls Seymour to run her plan by him because she feels like she’s missing something. He tells her that she needs to get control of the General first when she breaks in. Sita finally sneaks in by riding in Andrew’s trunk. She does the exact opposite of what Seymour suggested and finds Joel. The whole thing turns out to have been a trap. Now Sita finds herself in a cage that a nuclear bomb couldn’t break open. As it turns out, Andrew was not only in on it, but he’s actually Arturo.
Arturo reveals that he experimented on himself before he was arrested. While it didn’t make him immortal, he has aged at a much slower rate than a mortal would. That was why Sita didn’t recognize him; he was no longer the young man she remembered. Now, I don’t fully buy this twist. Adults don’t change radically the way children do. He should have borne enough similarities for Sita to have picked up on. But I digress. What’s done is done. Arturo is working with the General in order to finally complete his work, and the General is just using Arturo to get to find his own path to glory. They have Sita trapped in a cage she can’t escape, even with all of the elevated abilities that Yaksha’s blood afforded her. At least, she can’t simply break out. This just means she’s gotta think outside the box and get weird with it. I hope you’re ready for more violence!
Sita, with her emerging ability to pick up on thoughts, decides to encourage the fear of the guards around her. Bit by bit she works them into a frenzy and then knocks out all of the lights in her and Joel’s cell. She then makes an incredible amount of noise and puts on a show of trying to break the door down. Pretty soon the General and Arturo are on the scene as well as several armed guards. Arturo sees through what Sita is doing, but the General is more easily manipulated by his own delusions of grandeur. He commands that they open the cell and get her. Sita then brutally murders the first guard who comes in but spares the second one (or maybe I have that backward but I’m not checking). The one she spares, she makes a deal with. If he screams she’ll let him live. She also tells him to write the book he’s been thinking about. I enjoyed that little detail. Sita then basically causes a mass panic among the men, to the extent that the General loses control.
Sita kills several more and eventually is able to take the general hostage with Joel in tow. She gets him to arm a nuclear warhead by ripping the knowledge from his brain and leaving him a scrambled mess. They warn the men remaining in the facility to flee while they can. Sita knows that escape is no longer an option. She needs to destroy all of the data on her DNA as well as the source. Many of the men flee, Arturo tries to talk her out of it, but once the warhead is armed it’s too late. Now, I forgot to mention that Sita had been developing a new ability throughout the book where she seems to be able to become transparent and float in the moonlight. And that’s what ends up happening. She isn’t able to take Joel with her so he becomes another dead boyfriend character arc that ultimately went nowhere. The bomb goes off with Sita high above. That’s now the third massive explosion she has survived, but this one was nuclear!
Sita returns to Arturo’s place and finds his lab and personal research still preserved. It turns out he did find a way to make her human again. Against Seymour’s wishes to at least make him a vampire before turning herself back, Sita plugs herself into Arturo’s apparatus, does some science magic, and makes herself a human once more. She awakes from the procedure feeling the change in her body. Then she hears a knock on the door outside the lab and a voice she doesn’t recognize… who could it be?
That’s right, there are still three more books in the original run of this series. I will be reviewing them eventually, but I have had my fill of Sita for the time being. I hope there are fewer massive explosions and contrived magical powers appearing out of thin air, but who knows? All in all, The Last Vampire series has been both messy and enjoyable. It’s unique among vampire stories, and with some improvement, I think it could really make for an excellent screen adaptation. The opening chapter of this book alone would be fun to watch. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to reading more of Pike’s non-vampire-based work.
Check back here next October for my annual paperback teen horror trilogy extravaganza!
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
I appreciated that it wasn’t more of the same, but the whole army base thing got a bit silly at times. At least it was entertaining throughout.
Silliness aside, the pacing was great. The flashbacks were the exact length they needed to be. I wish there had been something other than another explosion at the end.
I like that Sita was met with a foe she couldn’t fully anticipate, but I was disappointed with the choices for Joel after he showed such promise in the last book. The General was a bit too one-dimensionally evil, almost to the point of parody.
I guess nuclear bombs are pretty scary. These feel more like action novels than horror novels. That said, the action is fucking top-notch. There is rarely a dull moment in these pages.
This series continues to go places I don’t expect it to, so I’ll give credit where it’s due. Even the parts that don’t work are usually doing something new.
Don’t miss the next post in the Pulp Horror blog series:
Patricia Windsor’s The Christmas Killer