First published in September of 1992, US author Poppy Z Brite’s (aka Melissa Anne Brite) debut novel ‘Lost Souls’ was born out of her short story ‘The Seed Of Lost Souls’ which eventually saw its own publication in 1999. ‘Lost Souls’ incorporated her characters Steve and Ghost, who have appeared in a number of other short stories by the author over the years. Indeed, several other characters who appeared in the novel also found themselves appearing in Brite’s second published work ‘Drawing Blood’ (1993).
After running away from his home in suburban Maryland, the young teenaged boy known as Nothing (previously Jason until he found out his true birth name), goes in search of what he believes is his real life and true home. Hitchhiking, Nothing is picked up by the gothic pleasure-seeking group of Zillah, Molochai and Twig.
The trio have been indulging in a veritable orgy of bisexual lust, the almost constant consumption of green Chartreuse and the inevitable delights brought about by the drinking of blood. For unbeknown to those around them, the trio are a band of vampires who exist by fulfilling their cravings and roaming around taking what they desire and leaving with no regrets.
The band find themselves in a club in Missing Mile, NC, where the group 'Lost Souls?' are playing. Nothing feels a deep emotional connection with the music created by Steve and Ghost - the members of the group. Two troubled musicians, through love, uncertainty and regret, see the troubled and lost soul in Nothing, who idolises them. Aware of the misguided nature of those that Nothing is travelling with, the two musicians are compelled to save Nothing from his spiralling lifestyle and ultimately himself.
In the French Quarter of New Orleans, amongst the Mardi Gras revellers, the deep routed history behind the intertwining and complex lives of each of those who have been drawn together is about to become unravelled. Under a crazy haze of lust, blood and the feeling of acceptance, Nothing’s life and those around him will bring about a change in the fortunes and misfortunes for them all...
Essentially a tale with an existential and nihilist outlook, Brite’s gloomy and gothic soiree into sexually charged vampirism and the longing for a true home, moves along with a graceful urgency and flare for a cultish atmosphere.
The prose and the narrative are delivered with a tight yet dream-like quality. The characters themselves are instantly captivating, but as the tale progresses, become almost a cliché of themselves, with too much of a one-dimensional and quickly established side to them.
The atmosphere of the entire novel is exquisitely portrayed, with an almost palatable essence behind the exploits lingering behind each descriptive word. As the intertwining lives become a complex mess and the characters’ lives begin to fall apart, so does the real thrust and momentum behind the novel.
Far too much weight is put towards Brite’s love affair with the gothic subculture to keep the reader totally submerged in the various storylines and the overall plot of the novel. Instead, the murky and lucid sub-stories take precedence over the whole novel, gradually pushing the reader out of the tale, until they are a mere outsider looking in.
The initial richness of characters soon dies off, leaving behind too much baggage and too little attachment between the reader and the characters. For a character dependent storyline, the end result is a story that gradually begins to drag along with a completely disconnected audience caring very little for the eventual outcome of the characters.
For an erotic, gothic and atmospheric read the novel plays this tune very well. However, for anything more substantial, ‘Lost Souls’ does sadly fall short quite considerably in many aspects.
The novel runs for a total of 359 pages.
© DLS Reviews