Review: Moonrise Falling, by Adrian L. Jawort

Posted by Dale Townshend on February 24, 2015 in Reviews tagged with

Moonrise Falling, by Adrian L. Jawort (Billing: Off the Pass Press, 2014)
Reviewed by Dr Gennie Dyson

MF picThe character of the vampire has been used to highlight societal problems since the nineteenth century; during this period, vampires mirrored the fear of the degenerate and the sexual deviant; in the 1980s they became harbingers of plague in a reflection of fears regarding H.I.V and A.I.D.S. The vampire has also been used as a tool to discuss matters of race and prejudice, such as The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez, concerns close to the heart of Adrian L. Jawort’s Moonrise Falling, focusing, as it does, upon mixed-race Native Americans. Indeed, Moonrise Falling, in conceptualisation at least, bears the potential to bring something new to the world of vampire fiction through the use of Native American characters, and an accompanying concern with the issues that the various tribes faced via the actions of the American government and the struggle to maintain Native religion and culture whilst facing various hardships.

Like many a vampire tale, Moonrise Falling self-consciously seems to echo a number of vampire fictions that have come before it. Abidan Dominic (or A.D. as he is referred to throughout the majority of the text) is the main protagonist and victim-turned-vampire, and it is through his descriptions that we learn what does and does not make a vampire in this text. In terms of the physical and supernatural characteristics assigned to the vampires, several of these also appear in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles: A.D. describes looking at his fingers once he has been turned and realising ‘it looked like I had a fresh coat of clear nail polish on my fingernails’ (52), which immediately brings to mind the image of Rice’s vampires who appear to have ‘glass’ on their nails. Furthermore, the vampires of Moonrise have the ability to read the thoughts of those around them, though, like Rice’s vampires, this ability ceases to work between the ‘parent’ and ‘child’ vampire. Deedra, the ‘maker’ vampire, again in characteristic fashion, takes a little time to de-bunk some of the ‘usual’ vampire superstitions, explaining that ‘most myths about vampires and killing them were far-fetched and for the movies; like us not liking garlic, crucifixes, and silver bullets killing us’ (77). Neither can they be killed with a wooden stake, although sunlight will certainly destroy them.

Even the format and structure of the novel reflects the early Vampire Chronicles, as the novel takes the form of a first-person narrative which is ‘revealed’ at the end of the text to be an ‘autobiography’ that A.D. has written for Deedra. The tale begins with A.D. on his way to commit an armed robbery, which he does, and which subsequently leads to his murder of a drug dealer. After the robbery takes place, he attends a party with his friends where he meets Deedra. Once he leaves the party, he is transformed into a vampire by Deedra and begins his new life with her. The real excitement in the narrative occurs when A.D. is propositioned by another vampire who wants to turn him into her personal slave, and Deedra, along with her maker, Joan, goes on a hunt to destroy the other vampires. This hunt, however, takes place beyond the novel’s setting, as A.D. is left behind and the text abruptly ends with the statement that A.D has ‘written’ his autobiography for Deedra. The rest of the text is taken up by brief scenes of his new life, pages of discussion between A.D and Deedra on subjects as diverse as other mythical creatures, religion and a little about their Native American heritage. The reader is given a glimpse into Deedra’s life experience (although why this is felt to be a necessary addition when the book is for her is unclear as she already knows her own past) in the form of a nightmare she once had about God expelling her from Heaven. There is also a narrative piece on the only time she felt guilt when she killed someone after she has been turned into a vampire and a brief history of her past as a human living with a foster family and then being forced to live with her ‘Uncle’, who abused and molested her when she was a child.

The characterisation of Deedra and A.D. is occasionally disjointed, and, contrary to the tendency displayed in many recent vampire tales, neither of them is sympathetic, nor even really likeable. A.D. comes across as a homophobic misogynist in several places, and, at times, their characterisation is inconsistent with the actions that both vampires subsequently perform. For instance, A.D., at one point, expresses guilt for killing, admitting that ‘[s]adly, killing was something I knew I could do’ (50), yet 10 pages later, after killing his first victim, he states that ‘I had killed someone’s daughter and could only feel pure ecstasy and euphoria’ (60). While Jawort, in an authorial aside at the end of the novel, nobly states that ‘[y]ou cannot create your own writing voice by continually drowning it out with the voices of what others may or may not think’, one cannot help but feel that a little more attention to the needs and demands of the contemporary reader of vampire fiction might have been in order. Nonetheless, the novelty of Moonrise Falling eventually lies in its application of the vampire myth to Native America culture, a realm of human experience that has not been exhaustively treated in modern and contemporary vampire narratives.

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