Jane Goes Batty by Michael Thomas Ford
Genre: Vampire fiction, humor, Jane Austen may or may not be rolling in her grave literature
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Summary: This over the top vampire novel, a sequel to Jane Bites Back, follows author turned vampire Jane Austen, her sire Lord Byron, and their arch-enemy Charlotte Brontë.
After more than 200 years, Jane Austen (now Jane Fairfax) has finally published her most recent novel, Constance and is dealing with the struggle to write her “sophomore” novel, deal with her new agent, a Brontëite, and attempt to tell her boyfriend that she is a vampire.
These problems are compounded when she meets her boyfriend’s mother, who happens to be a Brontë fan, and may or not be a vampire hunter. To further complicate matters, Constance is being adapted for film, and the director wants to set the costume drama in America in the 50’s.
Hilarity and hi-jinks ensue in a series that will have Jane Austen rolling in her grave… With laughter.
Jane Austen… Is a vampire… Living in the 21st century. Hearing this synopsis, I knew that few people in the literary community would appreciate this series, and I knew I was one crazy few who would read it. Yes, the premise is ridiculous, but that’s what makes this book, and it’s predecessor Jane Bites Back, so refreshing. It doesn’t try to be high brow. Instead it strives to be fun and entertaining, succeeding without crossing the line into literary slop.
Jane Bites Back and Jane Goes Batty are the kind of book you can start reading late at night and fight off sleep just so you can keep reading them. Ending just shy of 300 pages, these fast paced novels can be read in a day or two whether you’re a voracious reader or a voracious eater. Because you will want to read these books while doing everything.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Cassie, this is just yet another way to capitalize on the classic novel plus random pop culture monster phenomena. Isn’t this just Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or Android Karenina rehashed with a non-fiction cast? And the answer is no. Yes, it might be latching onto a current theme (one which I love and find no fault with simply because it gets people reading classic literature AS CREATURE FEATURES) but it has its own unique voice. Plus, if one were to believe the book, Abraham Lincoln actually was a vampire hunter.
Unlike Jane Bites Back, which focuses on Jane’s attempts to get her novel published and plagiarism charges by a Brontë scholar who ends up being Charlotte Brontë herself, this book focuses on the after affects of fame. It also is a lot more campy, with a romance novel blogger turned vampire holding a carnival complete with a dunk tank allowing people to dunk Darcy and a very non-rousing game of croquet that will make you want to chew and someone’s neck in annoyance. There is also a ball in which everyone inexplicably seems to already own regency era clothing.
The title character Jane Fairfax is refreshing, going against the mold much like the heroines in her novels. Her lightness and humour come through in her popular culture references, particularly her appreciation of “Clueless” and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If I were 80 years old I would probably refer to her as FANGTASTIC! But I’m not so you can just pretend I didn’t even write that last pun.
My only problem with Jane this go around is her tendency to stray to the dark side of things, as is inherent in all vampire fiction (with the exception of Twilight which strays to the lame side of things). Unlike some vampire novels which symbolize the sharing of blood as a metaphor for AIDs, or the exploration of the rigid morals in the Victorian era, Jane is merely concerned with her soul (much like one of my favourite vampire figures, Louis from Interview with the Vampire). Although this angsty self-reflection can get a little tiring at times.
Plus, who cares. Religion = boring. Although the introduction of a Rabbi character who Jane goes to when considering converting to Judaism amused the agnostic Jew within me nonetheless.
The other main character, that steals the novel from its protagonist, is Lord Byron, a self-obsessed sexaholic who much like his historical counterpart has something of a reputation. In the beginning of the novel it is revealed that he is enamored with two twins (complicatedly named Ned and Ted), and one night while drunk turns the straight twin by mistake. After finishing the novel, I still did not know out of Ned and Ted which twin was a straight vampire and which was a gay human. This is the only redeeming part of Twilight: it is easy to remember that Edward Cullen is the sparkly gay vampire.
Lord Byron is the spark in some moments that Jane is lacking (much like Magnus Bane or Cinna from City of Bones and The Hunger Games respectively). He also quite reminded me of Herbert the gay vampire from Tanz Der Vampire. Although, sadly, no one sings “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in this series.
Then there is her boyfriend Walter, who is without a doubt the least exciting character in the entire series. He restores houses, but other than that is generally boring, which is probably why he mostly remains on the periphery and stammers about marriage. He is also blissfully unaware that his wife and her amazingly hot ex-lover are vampires. It is a wonder why she dates him at all considering who she has to choose from. I suppose she gave up on looking for her Mr. Darcy 200 years ago.
-Full of humour and life, pokes fun at classic literary figures
-Realistic, well fleshed out characters (if you suspend your disbelief)
-Lord Byron is my favourite kind of bisexual vampire character
-The camp level is perfect for someone who likes creature features (raises hand and jumps up and down)
-Jane is a tad darker and a little more depressing than in Jane Bites Back
-The plot felt less fulfilling in terms of progress than its predecessor
-There is a painfully long scene involving the rules of cricket
Jane Goes Batty may seem ridiculous and overly campy to some, but was wonderfully entertaining for me. Although I think “Sharktopus” was a cinematic gem, so I suppose my judgment isn’t perfect. Regardless, I highly recommend this book and its prequel. It will have you dying to meet your favourite authors.
(See what I did there?)