This blog series starts here: http://pseudopod.org/2018/10/25/the-clan-novel-saga-a-revisitation/
Clan Novel: Gangrel covers events that happen between July 7 and July 26, 1999. It is Book 3 in the original clan novel saga and was published in June 1999. It was written by Gherbod Fleming, who provided five of the thirteen novels in the set.
Some odd choices were made in the crafting of this book. The first was to focus most of the book on a pack of Gangrel who are only vaguely aware they are vampires, let alone cognizant of how to integrate into vampire society. This book nearly stands alone, as it barely involves any major players and doesn’t follow any major events. It mostly focuses on the existential dread of immortality and what it means to be a vampire.
Ramona didn’t remember ever having fallen asleep since the night of the change—unless she counted her daily escape from the sun, but those hours seemed more like hibernation, or catatonia, than real sleep. She wasn’t sure that she had fallen asleep this night—it hardly seemed likely—but suddenly she noticed that time had passed. The night was deeper. Just like a mortal could intuitively tell morning from afternoon from evening. Ramona was sensitive to the phases of night.
The major beats of this novel are The Hero’s Journey, with Ramona as our orphaned farmhand who is called by Destiny. If these beats had been more precisely executed, this could have been a stronger novel. In the first section, the larger war between the Sabbat and Camarilla crashes down on them and forces them to pick a side to survive. They focus on that survival until a human gets captured by the Tortured Artist from the first book. Normally this wouldn’t cause much consternation, but our Gangrel pack leader was fixating on this human as a mechanism for clinging to humanity and reflecting on what matters in life. So off the party goes to rescue the princess.
The Tortured Artist Leopold is back, and he’s all-in for art angst. Please let him die soon. He suffers the sin of being boring. Also moustache-twirlingly evil with a dastardly WIN button. While we know he’s dead before the end of July (per the end of the Setite book), he dies some point after this book. I hope his death is cathartically good. The Tortured Artist would not normally be a threat, but the artifact Eye of Hazimel provides a lot of superpowers including making lava erupt, and earth spikes pop from the ground, and acid spray, and mind control, and it glows.
In attempting to save the princess, the pack gets pasted by the artifact. Ramona gets saved in the nick of time by the absentee father vampire that made her. Then Daddy Issues runs off to call a Gathering of Gangrel to take the Tortured Artist down. They slowly gather and talk and wait. Once Xaviar the boss Gangrel of the region shows up, the Gathering quickly stokes their hubris and heads off to beat up the Tortured Artist with the elaborate plan of “GET HIM.” Their extensive planning pays dividends as nearly every single vampire assembled bites it except for our magical orphan farmhand of destiny and the boss of hubris.
The boss is needed to push along the action in the other books, as he warns the vampire society as a whole of the monster. I wonder what will be done with Ramona, as she spends a majority of this book being passively crippled by indecisive paralysis. I think that’s where The Hero’s Journey fails to land in this book – the passivity. The Journey is all about motion. The Hero needs to have agency. Failure needs to be meaningful.
The characters don’t really drive this novel, as we don’t really get to see them grow after a struggle. I can’t recommend this as a novel exploring the existential dread of the recently vamped, as there are others out there that do that more effectively. Additionally, since it has a lot of World of Darkness specific detail, that effort is hobbled even more. It’s not a very important book in the saga, because it actually affects little else. That said, as displayed in the header photo, I’m really happy with the serendipitous bookmark used while reading this book.
The initial post: The Clan Novel Saga: A Revisitation
The next post: Ventrue