Book Review: Butchers

ButchersButchers by Todd Sullivan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I dived into this book with certain expectations, as I’m a huge fan of vampire fiction, and I was pleasantly surprised at the unique take the author had on them. This was a wild ride full of gore, grossness, and vampires who are truly immortal and equally immoral. (This review will not be completely spoiler-free.)

The story begins with an intense fight between vampire members of an organization called Gwanlyo. The rules are strict for them and meant to keep vampires in place — existing among humans without alerting them to the presence of beings much more frightening than they could imagine. They may tear at each other, slice off limbs, gouge out eyes, and pry an entire torso open, but unless one is beheaded or a heart is crushed, they will continue to exist. This fight opens the book to show just how much of a beating these vampires can take before one keels over for good.

The reason for the fight? Gwanlyo member Cheol Yu has broken one of their strict rules. His engaging with a potential member, who is still human, was out of line, and he is to be tortured. He happens to be extremely powerful, however, and makes it to safety with his head mostly attached.

After, we are introduced to more of the vampires. Hyeri, a wicked and destructive woman who can’t help but laugh over others’ misfortunes and craves destruction, Sey-Mi, an unfortunate high school girl who is pulled into a world she wants nothing to do with, and Dae Lo, a sadistic, evil monster who is all too happy to cause the greatest misery to those who betray the organization. We also get to meet Min Gun, who is not as foreboding as he initially seems.

What unfolds is a plan to take down the Gwanlyo by a vampire who wants nothing more than to destroy humanity, a betrayer on the run, and a young girl who is to decide where her loyalty lies.

The book definitely began with a bang, and I was unapologetically pulled into the gore that would follow throughout the book. Usually, the vampire stories I read are of the more classic variety, but I found that I actually liked this sort of vampire for a change. While they are known to be beautiful and seductive, they’re equally as awful and scary and every bit of what a horror book would entail. It was so different to me, personally, that I didn’t even think about them being vampires while reading. Although the word ‘vampire’ isn’t even used, or if it was, it was easily missed.

One of the few hang-ups I had about the book was during the chapter where Sey-Mi is being introduced to the organization. Her fear was absolutely warranted, although I felt her reaction built into a crescendo and kept going far past it, and she began tearing at her skin in her fear after punching herself. I had a hard time believing a teenager would mutilate herself like that just to see if she was dreaming.

At times the cruel nature of these vampires seemed to be all there was to them. It does change as the story progresses, however, and the characters that seemed flat, like Min Gun, eventually show that there is more depth to them. On the same note, other characters were wonderfully unique and fleshed out. Hyeri was personally my favorite because of how wickedly fun she was, and we get quite a bit of time with her. Min Gun, however, I don’t feel we get to know very well at all, and I can only begin to speculate who he is and how he feels about everything. At the end, it seems he grows attached to Sey-Mi, but we truly don’t get as much time with him like the others.

One specific little detail I found really interesting about the vampires feeding on each other in unison, was the connection created. They shared memories and feelings, and it was a very intimate experience. The same was true for a vampire feeding from a human. They saw memories and took in sensations, which is a really cool ability and added some emotion to the otherwise cold and cruel creatures.

Overall, I had few nitpicks about this novella and I enjoyed reading it, and I am glad I got the chance to review it. Todd Sullivan definitely got me into the atmosphere and the location, which takes place in Korea, which he knows quite a bit about. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who hungers for a different kind of vampire story, although I would warn that it is not for those who are squeamish.

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NaNoWriMo 2019: A difficult win

I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time last year, and I found it to be a very rewarding, exciting, and emotional event. I still have the images I snapped of my progress on the website, and I remember fondly the writing friends I made that seemed to fade off and do their own thing into this year.

NaNoWriMo 2019, however, was not the same experience.

Back in October, the new website was launched and there were multitudes of bugs — many that are still prevailing near the end of November. At first, I was disheartened to see that all of my progress on my Camp NaNo projects were at 0 despite finishing them, and nothing seemed to be operating properly with my stats. That wasn’t a big deal, though. Numbers on trackers are just that and in no way a determination of my successes with writing books, but it does tend to put a damper on your spirit.

I was still excited despite all of that. I planned the project that I ended up changing a week later due to my writer brain steering in another direction all of its own accord, and I found myself energized for writing again, my mood was boosted, and everything was falling into place like it had last year.

And then, I screwed up my stats page. Awfully so. I accidentally deleted all of my word counts and progress on my 2019 project due to being half awake and confused at the new stats page layout. There was no way to retroactively date progress either, so I just input my total word count from that day, and I pushed on. Soon, my stats page was looking pretty nice again despite my mess up.

Some friends didn’t take me seriously. A few even became very rude because I chose to dedicate my time to my project. I was yelled at in my own home, and I was spoken to as if I were boosting myself on a pedestal and considered nothing important but my own pursuits, and that I cast everyone and everything aside because I didn’t consider them important. This was furthest from the truth, merely just a judgment placed on me by some who were angry that I finally set boundaries, but it was difficult to deal with mentally. It’s very hard when you’re trying to accomplish something great — writing an entire book that you hope will help in your future writing career. It’s your work. Yet, for some reason, in my case, I was not allowed to do this work without being chastised, being judged, or generally being met with negativity from a select few.  This was in between other interruptions and important appointments I usually have.

It got lonely as much as it got too busy in my life. I tried in vain to post to Twitter to connect with NaNoWriMo writers, and I posted on social media everywhere to try to gather writer and NaNoWriMo friends so we could cheer each other on. I tried to message a friend on the site as a cheerleader for them, but I received no response. To this day, after finishing my feat of ending my first draft of a new novel at just over 52k words, everything is so silent. I don’t have anyone to celebrate with, but I didn’t have anyone to go through the journey with, either.

NaNoWriMo is for ourselves, as writers, to get better at what we do. It doesn’t matter if we have one, several, or no friends cheering us on. In my case, I write because it makes my life complete and it is the best kind of therapy to keep my head out of dark places. It has also, in my experience, been a lonely feat. Even outside of NaNo, my writer friends I’ve made have all slowly drifted off or stopped responding to my messages, or disappeared altogether.

I don’t know how algorithms work to find support. I don’t even know how to properly human to make friends half the time, but even though I may be doing a lot of lamenting, I am happy I finished my book. Even if I am sitting here just watching Youtube all night until my life resumes once more, I accomplished another feat I can wave my little happy flag at.

After all of November, I am left feeling like I just angered people who I care about or came off as a jerk for setting boundaries — for just wanting to work on and finish writing my book. I struggled through all of the challenges this month while trying to keep my friends happy. By talking to them even though I wanted to write, and finally dropping everything to do things for them when they just didn’t want to listen to me. When I wanted to talk about my book, they faded off or just didn’t really respond to it. Although, I have two friends who listened and even helped a few times, and I am grateful for them.

I’m more exhausted this year than I was the last, and yes, I’m happy I finished, but I’m left feeling as if I irritated people this month for simply wanting to do what makes me happy and is important to me.

NaNo 2018: Great.

NaNo 2019: We’ll just sweep this one under the rug.

NaNo 2020: Let’s hope for the best.