Review: 33AD by David McAfee
Reviewed by Terrence OBrien
The last book I read about vampires was Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and in 1897 it was a very clever idea. The folklore has been around forever, but Stoker launched a whole industry that has only accelerated in recent years. Vampires seem to be everywhere today. Books, movies, and TV shows are crawling with the fanged folks.
When I decided to get with it, and read my second vampire book, I selected David McAfee’s 33AD because he also had a very clever idea – and a very risky idea. He took the New Testament story of the Passion of Jesus, introduced an ancient race of Vampires, and wove a whole new story through it. Now that’s clever. And very risky. One does not lightly play with one of the most iconic stories of all time.
The New Testament tells us the Romans were involved with the crucifixion of Jesus, but it doesn’t give any of the Roman back story. It leaves all kinds of questions about who and why. This is where McAfee brings in a vampire assassin charged with eliminating the danger Jesus poses to the Bachiyr, and a Roman assassin charged with eliminating the enemies of Imperial Rome.
Since we all know the story of the Passion, we know what has to happen. What is intriguing is the way McAfee uses the struggle between human and vampire assassins to pull all the strings in the passion story we know. His treatment of the actual biblical story is done with restraint and respect, and it’s only in the fictional back story that he lets it rip.
Theron, the vampire assassin, is a thoroughly disreputable and detestable figure. So why did I like him? I don’t know. Maybe it’s sympathy for getting caught up in a whirlwind of events far more powerful than any human or vampire can ever handle. Tarus, the Roman assassin, just wants to serve honorably in the Legions and one day return to Rome. When he crosses paths with Theron, I suppose we could say what had to happen had to happen, and this is just one way it could have happened.
But it’s still a vampire story. The blood, fangs, deadly sunlight, crypts, and psychic control we learned about from Stoker in 1897 are all there. These vampires play by the rules. The tradition is alive, just moved back a few thousand years to a time and place we usually don’t associate with the genre. But McAfee moved it very well.