Thursday, September 23, 2010

Teen Retro: Christopher Pike

Christopher Pike's Weekend was the first young adult book that I ever picked up, and I became an insatiable reader of the category immediately after.  Pike's books are well-written, thoughtful and often stick with you, as Pike was quite philosophical in many of his books.  It's really no surprise that this pioneer of the medium is still quite a force in young adult literature since much of it was formed from his pen.  Lately, a few of his series have been republished in omnibus editions, most notably The Last Vampire in the form of Thirst, but others as well.  He still has quite a back catalogue of books yet to be repackaged, many of which are still viable for today's market.  Pike was well ahead of his time, and it shows.  One of the more recent Pike books to get a new edition is Remember Me (1989), one of the earlier books I read from the author, about a girl who wakes up in her bed following a party to discover that she's a ghost.  It's been ruled a suicide, but she knows that that can't be true, and goes on an investigation of her own to uncover the truth.  The book spawned two sequels, which are collected in an omnibus edition with the original book.


Original synopsis, from the publisher:

"She didn't understand that she was dead.

When Shari Cooper awoke at home after being at her girlfriend's birthday party, her family acted like she wasn't there. They didn't hear a thing she said. They wouldn't even look at her. Then the call came from the hospital. Her father and brother paled. Her mother started to cry. Shari didn't know what was wrong. Not until she followed them to the hospital. There she found herself lying on a cold slab in the morgue. The police said that it was suicide, but Shari knew she had been murdered.

Making a vow to herself to find her killer, Shari embarks on the strangest of all criminal investigations: one in which she spies on her friends, and even enters their dreams -- where she comes face-to-face with a nightmare from beyond the grave. The Shadow -- a thing more horrible than death itself -- is the key to Shari's death, and the only thing that can stop her murderer from murdering again."

Also recently collected are two of Pike's first novels, Slumber Party (1985) and Weekend (1986).  When I was reading young adult books in the 90's, much of the young adult "thriller" section was taken up by slasher books.  Lots of mystery and dead bodies.  These earlier works are of this genre, and have been collected together in the book To Die For.



Original synopsis of Weekend, from the publisher:

"The dream became a nightmare.

The weekend in Mexico sounded like a dream vacation.  Four guys, five girls - and a gorgeous oceanside mansion all to themselves.  It should have been perfect.

Except nothing was going the way they'd planned.  There was the girl upstairs who was fighting for her life.  The phone lines that went dead.  And the explosion in the garage that could have killed them all.

But not even that prepared them for what happened next.  Because while they were getting some sun, someone else was getting revenge - and the terror wouldn't stop until the weekend was over."

And The Last Vampire (1994), one of my favorite Pike novels, originally had five sequels, all in a row, and got more philosophical as they went along, but remained completely engrossing.  Even today, the vampires and werewolves are most often the male love interest of female protagonists, so it's nice to see a capable female protagonist vampire in this story, well before the huge vampire boom. The omnibus editions split the six books up into two volumes, and I'm happy to say that Christopher Pike is continuing the series with new material in the form of a third volume of Thirst, also known as The Last Vampire (Volume 7): The Eternal Dawn, avaiable in stores in a few short weeks on October 5.  He has also just released another new young adult book in hardcover called The Secret of Ka

I think The Last Vampire is a good example of not only how Christopher Pike was progressive in terms of storytelling, but how he thought about young adult novels.  The Last Vampire isn't so much as a series of sequels as a cycle of books that continue one into another.  Back when this was first published, teen books were usually around 200 pages, sometimes more, more often less.  But altogether, Pike's The Last Vampire, between the six volumes, is around 1,200 pages, and as we see from the current market, is split nicely into two volumes.  This more long-form story that Pike wanted to tell was ahead of its time, which is why many teen authors from the 80's and 90's have multiple works collected into big omnibus editions.  If someone published a YA book that was 150 pages, it would hardly seem like a young adult novel now so much as a novella.  But that's the type of story that Pike seemed interested in telling, especially toward the latter part of his career when he wrote The Last Vampire, and it seems that the culture has caught up to him.


Synopsis of the original The Last Vampire, from the publisher:

"She thought she was the last vampire.

Alisa Perne is a five-thousand-year-old vampire.  For ages she has hunted humanity, loved humanity, but now someone hunts her.  Who is this person - what is he or she?  Another vampire?  Alisa is not sure.  She thought she was the last of her kind.

Alisa has only one lead to follow.  A detective, Mike Riley, has tried to blackmail her.  In haste, before she could learn everything he knew, she killed him.  Now she must go after the detective's son and find out what his father knew.  Fifty centuries old, and she must enter high school and befriend Ray Riley, a handsome, shy boy who will attract her like no mortal has in centuries.  Ray will make Alisa think the unthinkable, to make another of her kind, something she hasn't done since ancient times.

But will Alisa use Ray to help protect her from the mysterious enemy?  Or will she just use him as bait?"

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