Day Boy

Trent Jamieson
Day Boy Cover

Day Boy


Day Boy, whilst not being a contender for my book of the year has certainly become the frontrunner in 'most pleasant surprise' category of 2016 (a 'newly invented' category for my fictitious book awards but what the hell...).

A book about vampires aimed at the Young Adult market really isn't my thing and I have to say I wasn't looking forward to reading this one all that much but I was really pleasantly surprised. This is a very good book indeed.

I think Trent Jamieson has written something really quite special here. 'Day Boy' is set in a post-apocalyptic Australia. Society is run by vampires who hold the human population in their grip. The humans are allowed degrees of freedom and can carry on ordinary lives as long as the vampires can feast on them. In a small outback town called Midland everyone is expected to do their bit to feed the five vampires living in town. The vampires meanwhile continue their decades old feuds with each other.

Vampires, being vampires can still be killed by the sun. Flame too as well as stakes and head chopping when they are at rest. As well as their superhuman power the vampires manage things by using 'Day Boys'. Essentially 'Day Boys' are servants of the vampires. Their role is to mark the homes of the people who will be visited at night for feeding, but they also fulfil a supplementary role of doing the household chores of the people who have been bled the night before. Essentially having a vampire visit leaves you too weak the following day so the Day Boy will pop round and do your jobs for you.

'Day Boy's are effectively apprentices to vampires and the best of them may undergo the change to become a vampire or enter into the human hierarchy of administration that props up the vampire society. The focus of this novel is Mark, the Day Boy of the vampire Dain. What is wonderfully crafted in this book is the status of Day Boys in society. They are clearly of a higher status than other humans, alongside anyone else who keeps the vampire machinery going but at the same time are nowhere near the status of vampires. The individual Day Boy may be treated well or not by their master but they are unequivocally a possession of their master. An attack on a Day Boy is very clearly an attack on the master also. The Day Boys function in human society - conveniently viewed as the dogsbody since other humans have to bleed but although the boys walk around cocksure of their status it's also clear the wider populace view them with hidden disdain. The Day Boys themselves are clearly a separate community from the vampires and the people. They close ranks when they have to but also fight the battles of their masters amongst their selves.

There is actually a shocking level of violence in the book, particularly amongst the Day Boys but in wider society also. On one level the world functions - the vampires rule and the people put up with it. Although their is a sense of a mutually beneficial relationship (there is a nod to a distant past where a cataclysmic event occurred, or a significant conflict) the vampires crush any resistance to their rule quite cruelly and decisively.

The reader is under no uncertain terms that the rule of vampire is cruel and violent. People are cattle and vampirekind has no intention of giving up what they have, menace seethes through every page. The Day Boys are all pawns as part of a wider decades old conspiracy. At the same time this is a novel of tenderness. Mark's relationship with Dain is complex and beautiful. The novel is a 'coming of age novel' - Mark is on the cusp of his future being decided, will he become a vampire or will he enter a life of farming. Everyone, except him views him as a man of significant power.

I really liked the treatment of Mark as a teenage boy - at times he is clearly a man, at others just like a roughhousing boy. He shows the immaturity of a teenager yet also the assuredness of a boy becoming a man. It's a long time since I've enjoyed reading a teenage character who seems like a teenager, rather than a 'young adult'.

I loved the setting, humanity has resorted to a hard working way of life - steam and gunpowder are the limits of technology, I like the nods back to an unknown past too.

What I really liked about the book is it's length. It's quite a short read and Jamieson leaves a lot of questions unanswered. There are a lot of gaps for the reader to fill in for themselves. The gaps however do not detract from the story in any way - there is hardly any exposition or 'tell'. The nuanced writing makes the reader think about the world. Ordinary life is mundane and the Day Boys live a life of drudgery but they also have a life filled with threat and malice.

Excellent read and I would go back to this if the author revisited this setting.