PROS: Ma knows what he’s talking about, from his logical take on the Vampire myth to his no-nonsense approach to fitness in a bloodsucker’s world.
CONS: Is sometimes too similar to the The Zombie Combat Manual, but since the books are meant to be part of a series, it can be overlooked.
BOTTOM LINE: An entertaining concept, executed well.
There are three main threads running through this book simultaneously: a discussion of the “truth” about vampires, first hand “accounts” of survivors and ghouls, and an easy-to-understand guide to preparing for a vampire attack. The vampire facts weren’t that different from what gets discussed with some seriousness by people who think the Twilight movies were way off base. Obviously, vampires don’t sparkle, turn into mist, or want to have sex with you. According to Ma, all of those myths are part of a carefully conceived plan by the creatures of the night to confuse us humans.
Actually, he makes a good argument for it. Vampires want young goth girls to think they’re attractive so they don’t struggle when it’s time to feast. That makes sense, since an unwilling victim can do some damage even to a stronger, quicker attacker. At the same time, if you’re expecting a cornered vampire to turn into a wolf, bat, or rat, you might be distracted when one of those animals comes out of the darkness at you, giving the vampire time to escape. Discerning fact from fiction is the first step in saving your life.
The second step, Ma feels, is to give you eyewitness accounts of the horror you face, so that you’re more emotionally prepared. We all know that one of the biggest dangers we face isn’t from the vamp we don’t know, but from the one that used to be someone we loved. These personal stories range from war time reports to scattered tales from survivors, and even include one-on-one conversations with the talkative undead.
The third step to surviving a vampire attack is to be prepared for it. This means knowing your body type (I’m an “endocombatant”), making peace with your religious and spiritual leanings, and a series of exercises to work those staking muscles. It also means that a big part of the book is dedicated to the various weapons and everyday objects which can save your life.
Ma does not skimp on knowledge. He tells you which martial arts styles might be helpful to know, advises you on how to assess your opponent, and even takes the seasons into consideration. His combat techniques are well-thought out and tailored to your abilities. Kurt Miller’s illustrations add a visual component for those learners who need to see an example of the lesson. There are also helpful notes as to the range and availability of any weapon, as well as the skill level needed to use it properly.
My favorite section was the incredibly detailed discussion of stakes: wood types, weapon dimensions, optimal design, and different ways to mount the stakes on your body (complete with drawings!).
Overall I’d say this is a great addition to any monster-fighting library. I know that if vampires turn out to be real, I want Roger Ma standing between me and their sharp fangs. Failing that, I’ll take the book.
Want to win my review copy of the book? Leave a comment below telling me who which vampire you’d like to be prepared to take out. Nosferatu, Dracula, Lestat, Edward? Winner will be randomly selected from the comments on December 1, 2012.