JoeyPinkney.com Book Review
4 out of 5 stars
Just when you thought vampire fiction had taken its course and all of the angles had been exhausted, Jeff Dawson pierces the literary world with “Occupation”.
Set in 1940s South Poland, “Occupation” brings Nazi history and vampire history together to form a dark, bleak read that is familiar on a few levels yet unique. If you know a little about vampires, you will readily recognize the bloodsucking fangs and virtually immortal status that comes with these beings. If you understand world history, you know the cold, heartless terror that Nazi Germany brought to the Europe during its heyday. “Occupation” is an excellent fleshing out of this question: “What if the Nazis and Vampires clashed in an epic battle of wit, logistics and pure determination?”
As the Nazis deports Polish denizens to death camps in Germany, they disrupt the ecology of the area. The two vampire families in the area have a longstanding agreement with the Polish. As a compromise for not killing indiscriminately, the Romanovs, the Boirarskys and the political leaders have come to a mutual agreement. The healthy Polish people stay alive, and the vampire clans take turns feeding on the old, the unhealthy and the criminal. When the Nazi intrude on the area, they ignore anything and anybody that is not the Third Reich. Their actions deplete the vampire clans’ food supply. Sworn enemies, the Romanov and Boirarsky unite to rid their land of its newest occupiers – The Nazi.
Jeff Dawson did a tremendous job with “Occupation”. The setting was well described and tangible from the desolate train station in Krakow to the forest homes of the Boirarsky and Romanov clans to the lavish interior of The Amadeus Hotel. He gives the high ranking officials of the Third Reich the same arrogant evilness that infuriates you each time they spit the word “peasant” at anyone they believe to be below them.
Dawson also gave intricate details to the two vampire clans making them quite different from each other. Both groups have strong male leaders. Each leader has his wife and family of distinct vampires.
The Romanovs have the boisterous and wily Nikoli. He believes that vampires are strictly hunters and should have few comforts. Accordingly, his residence is dusty, hard and sparse. He rules with an iron fist, and his wife manages to get a taste of it quite a few times during this novel.
With Kirili at its helm, the Boirarskys are a noble group. Posted up in their opulent castle, this clan lives like royalty, even during lean times. Cool, calm and collected, Kirili leads with elegance and starkly contrasts his nemesis-turned-comrade Nikoli.
For the most part, the editing was superb, and the flow of the story was easy to read. The dialogue fits the different characters. There were a couple of rough patches in “Occupation” that caused me to pause and scratch my head while I took a little time to figure out what was going on.
For instance, there is a section of the book where Dawson explains the defining moment that caused the Hatfield-and-McCoys-situation between the vampire clans. The forefathers Ivan’s (Romanov) and Gregori’s (Boirarsky) names were misspelled quite a few times in the short span of the story which detailed the bad blood between the two. Once, maybe twice, is passible. But four or five times is frustrating. I’m sure it was an honest mistake that was missed in the editing process.
Dawson also tended to over-explain what was going on. First, the narrator would let the reader know what was going on in the mind of a certain character. Then this was followed up with the character almost repeating what was narrated. This is also frustrating because Dawson’s characters were so rich that they didn’t need extra help from the narrator in most cases.
Dawson must have spent hours upon hours doing research on history, location, dress codes, language and lore. Dawson’s characters put you in their discussions. They gave you their thoughts, their fears, their concerns… Each character was a distinct entity.
“Occupation” is a longer read, but it’s a complete literary feast. The elaborate plans conceived by the united vampire clan dovetailed seamlessly with the aspects of life experienced because the Third Reich’s attempt at domination during World War II. Once the Third Reich was pitted against the vampires, anti-heroes slowly formed and, lines were blurred. A unique literary document was born.
Even if vampires and Nazis are not your cups of tea, “Occupation” may prove an enjoyable reading experience because it was, for the most part, a well-executed book distinguished by having a unique take on old themes. Jeff Dawson did an outstanding job creating a highly-detailed world for literature lovers.