12,090 A.D.: It is a dark time for the world. Humanity is just crawling out from under three hundred years of domination by the race of vampires known as the Nobility. The war against the vampires has taken its toll; cities lie in ruin, the countryside is fragmented into small villages and fiefdoms that still struggle against nightly raids by the fallen vampires – and the remnants of their genetically manufactured demons and werewolves. Every village wants a Hunter – one of the warriors who have pledged their laser guns and their swords to the eradication of the Nobility. But some Hunters are better than others, and some bring their own kind of danger with them.
This world is such an engaging one to read. It is set in the future, but due to the influence of the Nobility it has become this weird combination of high technology in an extremely gothic european setting. The author does a good job of getting this across too, it feels very gothic, yet you come across details like someone commenting on the “model” of a horse, or shooting horrible monsters with a laser rifle. These details do not feel jarring to me though as their existence is explained. The history of this world is so detailed too, you can feel it as you read through the series and pick up all the hints and references. I think this series is a true example of a good world-building process.
Vampire Hunter D is just one extremely intriguing part of this world. This half vampire half human, Dhampir, is cold and quiet. He is often the greatest mystery in the stories.
However when looking into this series at first I was startled at the mixed reviews, while many were glowing the ones that weren’t cited many technical flaws to an extreme degree. This confused me even more as I read the novels and was unable to find many of these flaws. Thinking back over them I wanted to address some of them and why the readers may have come to that conclusion.
Characters – Many reviewers moan about how the characters are boring and flat. Especially D himself. This sat wrong with me, but I can see how it came about. D is a quiet and cold seeming man almost heartless, he rarely shows any emotion at anything and this has been criticised.
However, perhaps I am used to reading “between the lines” as I almost immediately picked up that D was a complex character, and wanted to know why he was so quiet. Hideyuki Kikuchi did not disappoint me, I was attentive and discovered many little clues that went some way to enlightening me as to why D was like he was.
Writing Style – Hideyuki Kikuchi (or his translator) is often accused of poor writing. Very few examples of this are given by the reviewers but I can probably make some connections of my own.
This story is written in a 3rd person omniscient point of view, one not commonly seen these days (in my experience) and the narrator seems to actively avoid certain topics (such as D’s thoughts) while leading you to determine things for yourself with rhetorical questions posed to the reader. I’ve not read anything quite like it and found it a engaging change and thought it was done quite well, but it is this that might have caused the issue with other readers.
It is also heavily inspired by the books of its day, including Lovecraft. This has led to some poetically styled descriptions, which may have not translated very well. While I feel it has not degenerated quite yet into Purple Prose, it is much more purple then most books I read today.
Deus ex Machina (sort of) – D is powerful, like incredibly powerful. He seems to suddenly pull more power out whenever he needs it. No obstacle is too hard. My explanation below may be a little bit spoilery, skip this paragraph if you want and just accept that I say this isn’t true.
Now this one I can see, in the first books we know so little about D that we find it hard to read between the lines. But once you can you realise a lot of the story is actually a “man v. himself” conflict, rather then the “man v. man(vampire)” it appears on the surface. D is half vampire, and as such struggle to contain his vampire instincts, including bloodlust. If he gives into the desire to use his greater powers he must struggle harder to regain control over his instincts. This is done really well in some of the later books when you have learnt a bit more about him.
They are books filled with action and monster fighting, all done in exquisite detail, but that is not the main reason I love reading them.
So why do I love reading them? The Mystery and the History. Each book Hideyuki Kikuchi reveals a little bit more about the history of the world and a tiny selection of facts about D. I find the release of information about this enigmatic character almost painfully slow, but it only serves to make me want to read each successive novel more.
This is made all the more interesting by the fact that all the books appear to be stand alone, while at the same time the hints seem to be building up to something massive. Its really intriguing and I think it is the mark of a really good story teller who knows how to hook his readers. Though I guess this does only work on reader who are paying attention. Keep reading this series and I promise you that D will become a complex character in your eyes too.
In conclusion go into these novels with an active mind, pay attention to the little details because they are there for good reason. If you do that you will find these novels an engaging and often thrilling. I’m sure you too will see what I mean about the depth of character D displays. I hope you will enjoy these books.