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Review: Volaria – M.D. Neu

Volaria - M.D. Neu

Genre: Sci-Fi, Paranormal, Horror

Reviewer: Ulysses, PRG

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About The Book

Volaria, your home away from Earth.

Humans are no longer alone; they have been joined by Arcanes, Lycans, and Vampires. It’s been over a hundred years since the Earth went through The Shift. Where once almost eight billion humans lived, the population now holds at four billion.

But that wasn’t the only change. No one anticipated the branching of human DNA to produce new species of humans. Arcanes, Lycans, and Vampires are hidden throughout the genome, awaiting puberty before they manifest distinctly unhuman abilities. Finally, the new species of man were welcomed. No longer studied or treated as outcasts by most. People accepted these new humans and they integrated into society, albeit not easily. This allowed the UN Government to focus on colonizing space, in order to secure a future for all.

Risks remain however, permitting a vampire to feed from you can cause shared memories. Tobin Corsian took such a risk. He resides in a newly reopened district of San Jose, California, where his family’s old home stood. He lives there with his friend Mikel, a Lycan, and his dog Begger.

Instead of making his mandatory monthly blood donation at the government blood bank for the vampire community, Tobin decides, with the help of his therapist, to visit Biter, a vampire spa. The spa allows vampires to feed from humans directly while providing spa and sexual services, granting the donor a three-month reprieve from their required donations. Tobin’s encounter at Biter opens a window to his past and an experience he had as a child on the moon. Questions abound as he tries to unravel his past and make sense of his life.

The Review

M.D. Neu has a great imagination. The title of his latest novel, “Volaria,” refers to a resort town on the Moon that was first colonized by vampires who had hoped to create an independent vampire nation away from the prejudice of humans on earth. 

Neu presents us with a post-apocalyptic Earth, part of what I think of as a sub-genre of “happy post-apocalyptic settings” in which people live what seem to be pretty normal lives. Rather than nuclear war, it is human selfishness and abuse of our planet that triggers two things: a massive die-off of the human population due to a pandemic, which simultaneously brings about a genetic shift in the surviving human population. This in turn produce three strains of “extra” humans who emerge at puberty—lycans, vampires, and arcanes. Biological logic aside, it’s a fun premise on which to base a book.

Equally fun is that, even after the apocalypse, Disney manages to expand its franchise to the Moon—with Lunar Disney. 

The story focuses on a thirty-something office worker named Tobin Corsian. Insecure and beset by emotional issues, Tobin, with his therapist’s encouragement, is trying to find ways become a better version of himself. All I will say, plot-wise, is that this takes him down a very different path than simply self-affirmation. 

Neu is really good at imagining this brave new world, where the surviving humans on Earth have not only managed to maintain a stable environment, but have also colonized the Moon as well as Mars. More complex, and with a darker history (not surprisingly) is the way in which humans have forged a sometimes-tenuous peace with the three new lines of humanity. Magic-users (arcanes) seem to have integrated best of the three, with lycans (wolf-shifters) coming in second. However, the vampire population is still the subject of substantial prejudice. 

Tobin is a carefully constructed character, and I admit freely that what seemed like a simple, neurotic sort of nebbish evolves into a surprising anti-hero, drawing the narrative to its startling conclusions. 

The story is rife with moral ambiguity. While it is not difficult to pick out the innocent, it is much harder to separate the good guys from the bad guys. That’s where the real surprises come into Neu’s eerie story and unexpected finale. 

There really is no romance here, and no conventionally happy ending. The thing is, I didn’t understand that until it was all over. Neu’s writing is good, and even with the rather dodgy editing, I enjoyed his book.

The Reviewer

Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.

Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.

By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City. 

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