Here's another review from my vampire project!
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin Group, 2006
Where I got it: I borrowed it from a friend.
In Scott Westerfeld’s vampire world, vampirism is not some mystical transformation and existence. Vampires aren’t seductive, they can’t control the minds of their victims, and their beauty is quickly outweighed by the repulsiveness that surrounds them. In Peeps, vampirism is caused by a parasite. It turns the infected into insane cannibals who, through some scientific explanation, are repulsed by anything familiar to them (called the anathema) and therefore try to get as far away as possible from the life they led pre-parasite.
The first book follows Cal, a 19-year-old guy who was infected with the virus but is only a carrier—he gets the benefits of the parasite (night vision, super strength, and can eat as much as he wants without gaining a pound) without the anathema and the whole eating-humans thing. Now he works for the Night Watch, an underground government agency that tracks down parasite-positives, or peeps. Unfortunately, Cal has given the parasite to every girl he’s been with (it’s passed on through kissing and intercourse) since he caught it the night he lost his virginity—and because of this, he has to remain completely celibate or create more peeps. But recently there’s been a spike in the amount of peep sightings, and Cal’s not really sure why. Not to mention some strange cats that seem to have the virus, and rumblings from deep within the earth that are not just from the subway…
Vampire folklore is explained quickly by Cal toward the beginning. Peeps can see their reflection, but because of the anathema, they can’t stand to look at themselves (they’ll smash all mirrors and reflective surfaces near them to avoid their own faces); the anathema also explains peeps’ cruciphobia (fear of crucifixes), since back in medieval times church was a major part of everyone’s life; and it’s pretty easy to see where the blood-drinking idea came from.
Westerfeld’s scientific explanation of how vampires are created can be summed up in a word: sick. I mean that in both the original meaning of the word (disgusting) and in the more modern slang (incredibly awesome). He alternates chapters that deal with plot and chapters about different parasites, obviously relishing in delicious details of what makes us sick, and how it relates to Cal’s discoveries. This is a great read not only for vampire fans, but for anyone interested in biology or just a good mystery.
A note on Peeps’ sequel, The Last Days: It’s nice to see the aftermath of what turns out to be an apocalyptic event and to see returning characters, but it’s easy to get bored with the plot (five teens make up a new band) and to get annoyed with the new main characters and their made-up slang. It was a disappointment, to say the least.