Mark Diehl’s Vida Nocturna is a Drug Induced Fever Dream of a Read

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Only the need will last forever.

Sara has always escaped her real-world fears by reading fantasy and horror stories. Now, as a social-phobic college freshman, she enters a dark world where horror is not supernatural and fantasy is a trap.

Evil is contagious. Victims become predators, and every predator was once just like Sara. Imagining she’d be different was her first step toward them. Now, draped in the decadent ‘80s subculture, she’s rendered helpless by powers she never imagined. (Synopsis from the author’s website)

I started reading Mark Diehl’s Vida Nocturna with expectations of the tried and true vampire tale. Be it either vampires wearing lace shirts and oozing sexiness or bloodthirsty monsters, I was waiting for a familiar path. Boy, was I ever wrong. This story focuses away from the vampires so much that the vampire mythos is a side concept; never using a traditional path that is so common in common fiction.

The story follows the life of Sara through a mix of memories, daily interactions, and recreational drug-related dreams. The vampire mythology does not play much of a role during her childhood but becomes more of a theme during her addicted years.

The segments that deal directly with her childhood revolve around a dysfunctional family life with a self-obsessed mother and a perfectionist father who demands nothing but perfection from his family. Both parents inflict psychological and physical abuse on Sara in response to perceived attacks against their own “perfect” concepts of how they want themselves and their lives to be. In a few parts, the abuse is relentless and really made me feel for Sara.

The rest of the book is divided between thoughts and memories that mirror what Sara is doing in the present and what the drugs are making her believe. In all honesty, the vampire portions of this story are minimal, and if you are looking for an horror story, you will not fully appreciate this story. This story is more about the horrors that drug addiction can bring to a user’s life and to the lives of those around that person.

The vampire portions are an added defense mechanism for Sara to deal with the tragedies in her life. It also seemed to me that the vampire storyline may also mimic the horrors of constant crack/herion usage and how Sara separates her reality and fantasy through her drug use.

I recommend this book for those who are looking for a different story with an unique perspective. Sara is a troubled young adult who is trapped in a cycle of drugs, sex, violence, and imagined realities. She creates her own realities in her mind and seems to be lost in these alternate realities. This is a very unusual tale, but it is crafted with rare skill.

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