Monday, September 24, 2012

Sudden Death Overtime – review

Author: Steve Vernon

First published: 2012

Contains spoiler:

The blurb: Meet Sprague Deacon - one of the toughest old-time hockey players who ever skated upon a rink of hand-poured ice. Sprague was born and raised and he expects to die here on the Northern Labrador coast. What he did not expect was a tour bus full of vampires - none of whom glitter in the least bit - to pull into his town and begin lowering the population level - one corpse at a time. Sprague and his three best friends - an over-the-hill never-say quit bush league hockey team from Northern Labrador go toe-to-tooth with a tour bus full of vampires in an immortal-stakes showdown of street hockey? For the answer - throw Paul Newman's Slapshot into a blender with Steven Niles’ 30 Days of Night and hit frappe!

The review: Hockey and vampires… rather rare, though not totally unheard of as the sport features at the head of the film the Deaths of Ian Stone. I only, however, know a little of the game and worried that, perhaps, my lack of knowledge might be a disadvantage with this novella... It wasn’t.

Indeed, whilst the hockey makes a nice little background and is a fundamental part of the lives of some of the main characters it was just that, a background to a short, blackly funny novella.

A bus appears in a small Labrador town, a bus that transports vampires. There is a degree of ‘Salem’s Lot as the vampires seem to issue a siren’s song of seduction for the townsfolk they initially take, though the action heats up as they take out the local church and then Sprague (the primary character) and his buddies see the vampires for what they are. What was refreshing was there was very little confusion… the old timers see their first vampire, its open maw giving the game away as “its jaw dislocated and its gums seemed to peel back and its teeth grew icicle-long, winter-sharp and hungry…” and they know immediately what to do… and, of course, they would. In a world where vampires are on every TV and movie screen with regularity the basic rules would be known.

Not all the lore is standard. The tour bus itself seems to be sentient and vampiric. Whilst it is not affected by sunlight, it is affected by garlic (which will melt the flesh of a vampire or the paint of the bus). The vampires are susceptible to a stake through the heart also and holy water. Speaking of which, the actual religion is irrelevant so long as it is vaguely a religion and a minister thereof does the blessing – something Vernon uses to irreverent comic effect.

For, essentially this is a comedy (though a black one as I suggested earlier) and it is driven by some great characters, caricatured enough that this would translate well, I feel, to the screen. 7 out of 10.

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