JoeyPinkney.com Book Review
“The Vampire Dancer Saga Part 2”
3 out of 5 stars
Shalimar Ali’s “The Vampire Dancer Saga Part 2” is a whirlwind of a tale smashing together different time periods (past, present and future), various celebrities (and their caricatures), vampires, spirits and a healthy dose of comedy.
This frame story is based on the 3010 Vampire Olympics, a dance competition featuring 13 dance crews representing a myriad of dance styles. The competition is a play on the dance-based reality shows that are a staple of today’s network television stations. Ali puts her own twist on the event by centering it on vampires, the undead and well-known dancers from the past. The 3010 Vampire Olympics is hosted by the nefarious trickster Salome from the annals of history and five different Dick Clarks from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
As you breeze through the thirteen chapters of “The Vampire Dancer Saga Part 2”, you quickly realize a few things about the author. She knows a lot about the history of modern dance. She understands the role of dance in the context of ancient history. She has knowledge of some of the greatest dancers and performers of in recorded history. And the LOVES dance shows on television that have the elimination-style competition!
Each chapter features a different motley crew of dancers in a different time period. Chicago in the 1930s features Team Hip Hop Lindy Hoppers, including the likes of Eleanor Powell, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astair, and the Nicholas Brothers. Wichita, KS features The Wicked Bitches of the East, South, West and North based on the Wizard of Oz characters. To top it off, 1980s Gary, IN, features Team Breakdancing Freaks, including Debbie Allen, Gregory Hines, Patrick Swayze, Janet Jackson and… Are you ready for this? Not one but TWO Michael Jacksons!
“The Vampire Dancer Saga Part 2” is a thoroughly imaginative tale that melds various elements of pop culture in what could be a neat story. Full of humor and mirth, Shalimar’s sharp wit and intellect can be seen in the scenes depicted in this book. The 13 dance crews are competing for the grand prize in the 3010 Vampire Olympics with the theme being DANCE OR DIE – literally. The judges are an assorted bunch of beings pulled from the shows “Dancing With The Dead Stars” and “So You Think You Can Vamp”. If you love vampire fiction and comedy, “The Vampire Dancer Saga Part 2” is the perfect mix of both genres.
One problem is the disregard of traditional literary punctuation rules. Don’t get me wrong, small punctuation errors here and there are easy to deal with when reading books. They are par for the course. For Shalimar Ali, the aspect of her book I’m discussing didn’t seem so much like errors and more like her writing style. I’m all for writers being original, but sometimes originality comes at the risk of making it difficult for finicky readers to give originality a fighting chance. In terms of Ali’s writing style, I had a difficult time sinking into the groove of the book because it wasn’t until the third chapter that the dialogue was enclosed in quotation marks. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was being said by the different characters and what was being told directly to me by the narrator.
Another aspect of “The Vampire Dancer Saga Part 2” that was difficult to digest was the five Dick Clarks. It was challenging because the Dick Clarks represented Dick Clark during five different decades of his life in the entertainment industry yet nothing set one from the other. They were simply referenced as Dick Clark1, Dick Clark2, Dick Clark3, Dick Clark4 and Dick Clark5. They spoke out of turn, meaning Dick Clark3 would speak then Dick Clark5 would speak then Dick Clark 2 would speak and so on. Trying to keep up with which Dick Clark was futile. The concept was creative, but it didn’t add anything substantial to the flow of the story.
If you are familiar with the characters she is satirizing, the humor is apparent. For those who are not as “hip”, Wikipedia links are given at the end it each chapter to catch you up to speed. My problem with this is that after reading a chapter and not getting the some of the subtle jokes embedded within the character’s names, I had to read three or four Wikipedia articles then go back through the chapter again to get the implied jokes. I like to have enough information about the characters built into the story, so I feel like I know what’s going on as it is happening. In all fairness, I didn’t hold this against Ali in terms of the quality of the book. If you know about the different people mentioned in the book, you’ll enjoy this aspect of the story immensely.
Shalimar Ali’s “The Vampire Dancer Saga Part 2” has a lot of appealing aspects. There is pop culture, ancient history, spirituality in dance, comedy, competition, futuristic vampires, two Michael Jacksons and five Dick Clarks. But this book fell short in terms of being easy to read. There were a plethora of grammar issues, misspelled words and names, usage of words spelled similarly to the intended word, verb tense inconsistencies, lack of traditional punctuation early on in the book and sentence fragments which all came together to slow down this quick read. If you are willing to look past those flaws, “The Vampire Dancer Part 2” can be your literary diamond in rough.
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