cover image Reluctant Immortals

Reluctant Immortals

Gwendolyn Kiste. Saga, $17.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-982172-35-0

In the meandering, miserable latest from three-time Bram Stoker Award winner Kiste (The Rust Maidens), vampire Lucy Westenra of Dracula, and a mysteriously undead “Bee,” Bertha Mason of Jane Eyre, live together in 1967 L.A.—until an offensively mischaracterized Jane Eyre, here cowed, beaten down, and in cahoots with evil men, arrives at their doorstep and frees Dracula’s remains from the urns in which Lucy has been imprisoning him. Jane then returns to San Francisco and Mr. Rochester, reenvisioned as a cross between Hugh Hefner and Charles Manson, who keeps a harem of barefoot women and forces Jane to join in erotic cult-worship of a revived Dracula. Lucy and Bertha conveniently fall in with a group of hippies as they work to rescue Jane and take down both evil men. The novel attempts to condemn misogynist abuse but delights in and eroticizes its depictions of female victimization, making it feel less daring and nuanced in its depictions of female resistance to gendered cruelty than the 19th-century novels that inspired it. Devotees of Dracula and Jane Eyre will be baffled by Kiste’s unrecognizable updates of the characters. For those unfamiliar with the originals, there may be some pleasure in exploring the unrelentingly grim atmosphere Kiste brings to 1960s San Francisco, but others can safely skip this. (Aug.)