Book Review

Book Review: Sabella

By Tanith Lee

My Edition:
Paperback, 157 pages
1980, DAW

Sabella lives on the Earth-like colony of Nova Mars in the house where her mother died. After her aunt’s sudden death she finds herself being stalked by a young man who she met on the way to her aunt’s funeral. But Sabella knows what to do with handsome young men; she’s been feeding off their blood since she was fourteen. However, this young man brings with him a host of troubles that bring Sabella out of her secluded life.

I loved Sabella as a character, but as a book, not so much.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a bad book, but more middle of the road than I was expecting. I mean, I basically expect to expire from joy after every Tanith book I read because her words are like a godsend to me, but obviously, that doesn’t happen.

I signed up for vampires on Mars and I did get one sexy (there’s quite a bit of sex), sulky, somewhat depressed vamp babe, but not much else. I did enjoy the way Tanith painted this future planet – just enough cool sounding gadgets and pink sand to know it’s somewhere beyond our means,  but not so much tech that it was taking away from the story. Yet, I wished it had been a bit more spacey? I mean, I can’t think of when I’ve read anything close to vamps in space – the vampire books I generally pick up (which probably isn’t all that often, now that I think about it) usually feel more like fantasy than sci-fi so I was intrigued.

But this book is more about Sabella’s relationships with those she preys on and her aunt’s last will and testament than anything necessarily space or future related. Sabella’s relationship with the man she meets en route to the funeral and the one that follows afterward were strange and often didn’t make sense. Oftentimes Tanith’s characters form a sort of instant attachment or relationship (as in, you pretty much know who is going to partner up), yet it usually ends up more developed by the time the two characters are fully together. In this book, by the end, I was really wondering why the hell Sabella ended up with the man she did and what kind of twisted relationship she was in.

There is an extra…extra-terrestrial plotline thrown in at the end, a sort of origin story for Sabella that links this book further with the sci-fi realm and I wish there had been more development of that earlier on. I was more interested in how vamps ended up on Mars or what happened to turn Sabella than which guy she was going to end up with.

I do always enjoy Tanith’s writing (her language?), even if I don’t enjoy the subject. You are probably thinking that doesn’t make sense. But her words always seem to cast a spell over me and her worlds are so vivid, so even if I’m not interested in all the characters or the plot, there’s still magic in her books for me. Overall, not a favorite of mine, but it’s something different if you’re looking for vampires in space and/or a lady who wears lots of black and has awesome jewelry.

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