Published by Harper Collins Childrens Books on 31st March 2011.
I sent a tweet message to author Will Hill whilst only about a quarter of the way into this fantastic new novel; it was to say a big thank you for the fact that both my 13 year old self and my 41 year old self were both loving the read.
In Department 19, Hill has managed to capture so many things that fired up my imagination as a younger man and those that continue to do so. He’s referenced old horror genre classics and brought in some great new twists and action throughout this modern vampire tale that I hope this novel is just the beginning of what promises could be an absolute runaway success.
What if everything that Bram Stoker wrote of Dracula and the other characters in his novel were true and real? What if Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein really had created a monster, and what if that monster now worked within the secret organisation, Department 19, a government department set up by the very names of Stoker’s novel to protect future generations from vampires, werewolves and other supernaturalforces? And what if those members of Department 19, or Blacklight, were all heavily armed trained soldiers with AK47 assault rifles and T-Bone weapons (specially designed for the slaying of vampires)?
This is real boys’ stuff. The firepower and armour akin to the space marines of Warhammer 40K or Aliens, the vampire lore the stuff of legend, the action and great storytelling all of Will Hill’s own.
I loved the fact that there were some other references scattered within too. The central character of Jamie Carpenter’s father Julian was taken from him by vampires and now his mother has been taken too. I just wished that further back in the story there would be an ancestor called John Carpenter (after the horror movie director) and there was, right after a chapter entitled In the Mouth of Madness (presumably after the Carpenter movie of the same name). It was also great to hear a character refer to a neighbours as the Marsdens’ House – surely a reference from Stephen King’s classic vampire tale, Salems’ Lot.
Although a childrens’ book, and aimed at thirteen years and above, some of the sequences are the stuff of real adult nightmares; the young girl Larissa’s pain-filled ‘turning’ into a vampire was horrible to read, but horrible in the way that An American Werewolf in London’s cinematic werewolf transformation was horrible and fascinating in equal measure.
So, if you want an action filled gung-ho story filled with weaponry and fantastically exciting scenes of battle and daring-do, this is for you.
If you want a great adventure story with a little romance thrown in along the way, and lots of vampiric bloodshed, this is for you too.
And if you just want to see that, once again, after Stephen King (Salem’s Lot), John Ajvide Lindqvist (Let the right one in) and Justin Cronin (The Passage), here’s another fresh take on vampires – and one with a clear respect from it’s literary origins too.
Highly recommended – go grab a copy and enjoy.
Get on this ride now, be one of the first, as I’m sure it’ll be a series, and won’t be long before we get a movie, if justice is to be done.
Keith B Walters