REVIEW: Mike Chen’s ‘Vampire Weekend’

by | Mar 20, 2023 | Reviews

Mike Chen
Vampire Weekend
(MIRA Books)

“A fresh take on a vampire story that also accomplishes a rare feat – capturing music and musicians realistically – in a surprisingly heartwarming (and blood-pumping) tale.”

It’s hard to know which challenge is more difficult for an author to pull off: having a unique spin on a vampire story or writing convincingly about music and musicians in a work of fiction. It’s a literary wonder that Mike Chen does both in his clever, song-filled Vampire Weekend.

The book follows Louise, a music-obsessed vampire, whose weekend starts with a band practice gone bloodily wrong and only gets more complicated from there. Louise isn’t a human-feasting monster; rather, she’s an ageless early-twentysomething who works as a hospital night janitor in order to steal enough blood bags to survive. But when a shortage causes panic in the vampire community, desperate measures – or at least interacting with other vampires – may be needed by the normally reclusive musician.

Adding to the complication is an unexpected visit from long-lost (non-vampiric) relatives, including an angsty young teen with musical ambitions of his own. Louise finds herself as an unlikely mentor, trying to keep her true self a secret while opening herself up to others for the first time in decades. It’s in these passages, as well as elsewhere with Louise playing guitar or attending shows, that Chen shows that he’s not only a skilled storyteller but a musician who has played in bands and has a deep love of songs. The little details and deep musical references are unforced, like a subtle melody weaving through a song.

On the vampire front, Chen opens many chapters with Louise dispelling various tropey vampire myths and setting up Vampire Weekend’s rules. It’s an effective technique that makes the book stand out with a specific tone and world all its own. As Chen points out in the book’s acknowledgements section, a “wholesome punk rock vampire resolves her family trauma” novel might seem like a bizarre idea, but he manages to pull it off in surprisingly satisfying ways.

Vampire Weekend may not have the gore of vampire tales of old, but its emotional hooks – along with its musical chops – will keep readers turning pages and humming along to its vampire song.

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