David is a normal ten-year-old boy who lives in the bosom of a happy family in a quiet town by the marshes, until some mysterious nightly bites lead him to undergo changes. All of a sudden, he knows things he shouldn’t, horrible things: his father dreams of going to bed with the intern and the husband of his teacher Mercedes is cheating on her. Mercedes is herself hiding a terrible secret from her past and is prepared to do something hideous to protect her future… And suddenly, along with awareness comes hunger. And thirst. An irresistible thirst…
I am rather conflicted about this novella. I read it in one sitting, eagerly devouring every page, testament to the genuinely creepy concept that Soto explored. However, as the story entered its final stages I felt myself becoming increasingly disappointed with the direction the author chose to take us in, twisting away from the subtle into well-trod cliché.
Mosquitoes is a vampire story (yup, another one) but with a nauseating twist: the bloodsucker is an actual bloodsucker – a mosquito that feeds nightly upon a young boy and bestows nefarious powers upon him. Veering away from the mystical vamp of common lore to this everyday insect (albeit one with supernatural qualities) suddenly transforms the campy nosferatu into a much more real and unsettling presence. ‘Mosquitoes’ taps into the fear we all hold of bodily intrusion by the natural world, making the bloodsucking scenes so much more uncomfortable than the borderline erotic ones that dominate contemporary literature.
As David’s mind becomes transformed by the presence I found myself being reminded of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary (IMO the best horror story ever told), but not so closely as to feel that this was anything other than a comparison in my own mind. Ultimately, I wanted David’s powers explored further as these were a genuine source of horror in the tale.
Unfortunately, after these fresh and gripping elements had only just been introduced, the story suddenly becomes a typical one of evil vampire vs courageous heroine. The change of tone into cliché brought up glaring plot weaknesses; for example, the villainous entity was suddenly affected by a cross, even though there had never been the slightest hint of a Christian link to the tale. Perhaps these weaknesses wouldn’t have seemed so troubling if the book had been longer and the concepts more fleshed out.
Mosquitoes is a very promising novella that doesn’t quite deliver. The genuinely creepy concept underpinning the majority of the book makes it worth reading, but I hope the author returns to the story someday to flesh it out further. Ultimately I wanted to read more, which of all the problems a narrative can have is the least troubling.