BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Vampire and college graduate Fortitude Scott must embrace the supernatural world he has so long avoided in order to stop a vicious monster.
PROS: Great characters, great dialogue, great themes.
CONS: Forgettable villain, lead character is occasionally eclipsed by support.
BOTTOM LINE: This is a strong debut with a lot of heart, with an interesting take on the vampire mythos.
I haven’t had a whole lot of time for reading lately (blasphemy, I know) but I was recently able to finish M.L. Brennan’s Generation V and boy-howdy was it a fun novel! I’m not big on vampires. I don’t find them as boring as zombies but they’ve never appealed to me like other monsters. I do love the movie 30 Days of Night for making vampires frightening (perhaps I should check out the comic) and Jonathan Maberry’s portrayal of blood suckers in Assassin’s Code is insanely awesome. Brennan’s vampires are extremely interesting in a completely different way.
Fortitude Scott is living the post-college dream. He’s got a cheating girlfriend, a lousy job, an obnoxious roommate, a crappy car, and one other thing – he’s a vampire. Fort fears losing his humanity and so he has rebelled against his very nature for his entire life. He comes from a prestigious vampire family that practically owns the East coast. It isn’t until a foreign vampire comes to town that Fort is thrust head first into the supernatural world he has tried so hard to avoid. Fort’s mother has granted this monster the rights of hospitality and his siblings refuse to get involved, leaving Fort himself to prevent the spill of more innocent blood.
First and foremost, I love the cast of Generation V. As a college student nearing the end of my education it is impossible not to sympathize with Fortitude Scott. He’s a decent guy doomed to suffer an eternity as a barista for the unforgivable sin of majoring in film theory. His girlfriend and his roommate treat him like a door mat and Fort is too timid to do anything about it. Then there’s his family to consider. Madeline, is a major power broker and matriarch of the clan, appears to be a kindly middle aged woman when in fact she is a calculating vampire. Chivalry, is Fortitude’s charming, handsome, and well mannered brother. And then there’s Prudence, Fort’s sociopath sister.
The family dynamic is endlessly entertaining. There is a certain etiquette that these vampires choose to observe and it’s funny to watch Fort blunder through it with all the style of a 21st century young adult. Fort’s interactions with his family members serves to highlight the differences between predators and prey. Because Fort was partly raised by humans he thinks like a human, whereas the rest of his family regards humans with varying degrees of dismissal. I grew a soft spot for Chivalry, and to a lesser extent Madeline. I do believe that Madeline and Prudence would have benefited from more development but this is, after all, the start of a series.
And then there’s Suzume Hollis, a kitsune under the employ of Madeline, who becomes Fort’s bodyguard. I can’t remember the last time I grew such an attachment to a fictional character. Suzume is dangerous and sexy but more importantly, she’s hilarious. Suzume is constantly finding new ways to annoy Fort, and through this, help him grow a pair. She is overactive, with a short attention span, and super adorable. One of my biggest pet peeves is bad romantic subplots. It’s rare that I read one that feels organic. Suzume Hollis is a character, not a love interest, and because Brennan takes time to establish a believable relationship between her and Fort I won’t feel put upon if they eventually hook up. In fact, I’ll probably cheer – Suzume is just that awesome.
And that might be one of the few problems with Generation V. Because of Fortitude’s passivity and Suzume’s eccentricity, she does tend to outshine our protagonist. Brennan is able to scale this back later on, and remind the reader that this is Fort’s journey and Suzume is support. Fortitude develops over the course of Generation V, not too much that there won’t be room in future books for continued growth but just enough that he doesn’t feel static as a character.
The plot takes the semi-standard urban fantasy detective route, but Fort’s lack of experience and skills makes this feel refreshing rather than tedious. The appearance of other supernatural creatures came as a surprise, though I’m not sure why. If vampires are real, why not kitsune, elves, and witches? The antagonist is suitably despicable, though not entirely memorable. Luca is a creepy euro trash perv, but beyond that his personality is lacking.
It’s the family dynamic and Brennan’s approach to vampire lore that makes this such a standout read. The vampires have an aristocratic air – they’re sexy without being sparkly and unforgettably sinister. What’s most interesting perhaps, is that Brennan finds a way to depict Fort’s family as dangerous in a variety of ways. Madeline has power, Chivalry has charm, and Prudence has anger problems. And Fortitude? He’s not bound by traditional vampire etiquette. How can you justify hunting evil when you come from a family of monsters? It’s a theme I hope that Brennan further explores in future entries.
Generation V is unexpectedly awesome. Fortitude Scott manages to confront the issues of life after college and the struggle against genetics in entertaining ways. He’s not your average, hard-boiled urban fantasy protagonist. He’s not your average vampire either. What I find even more exciting than Generation V is the potential this has for a series. There a lot of unique and interesting ways Brennan can explore and develop the complex relationships that are built around Fortitude. And though there are already enough crime procedurals and urban fantasy shows on television I’d suggest that Generation V could make a great series. The investigation angle would be fun enough, but the interplay between the characters? That would make for some good television viewing if you ask me. Oh, and if Brennan eventually decides to make a kitsune spin-off series that would be totally awesome too.