The King of Las Vegas, by John Van Stry – book review by Fred Patten
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The King of Las Vegas, by John Van Stry
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, March 2016, trade paperback $10.99 (234 pages), Kindle $3.99.
John Van Stry has written four Hammer Commission novels; The Hammer Commission, Wolf Killer, Loose Ends, and The King of Las Vegas. They are set in a world where demons, devils, monsters, and vampires are real. Three of the four feature Mark Levin, a demon-devil-monster-vampire hunter for the FBI and Interpol who is a monster himself. Mark and his French partner Jake are minor characters in The King of Las Vegas, which features a rakshasa.
A traditional rakshasa is an Indian (Hindustani) demon, usually described as a huge fanged cannibal who can shape-shift and live hundreds of years. In Van Stry’s novel, it’s a tiger-striped shape-shifter who can turn into a tiger (not a were-tiger; the distinction becomes important in the story) that happens to be a good guy. Rafael is an American college student on vacation in India who is captured and enslaved by a Rakshasa (Van Stry sometimes capitalizes it) and is turned into one himself.
Eleven years later Rafael escapes to American Catholic missionaries in India, and is turned over by them to Mark and Jake. When they determine that Rafael doesn’t want to prey on anyone, he just wants to return to America, they help him out. As a rakshasa, he needs lots of meat, he feeds on strong emotions, and he has to be near tigers. The best place in America for that is Las Vegas – the casinos provide plenty of cheap meals, the gamblers provide the strong emotions, he can pass his tiger stripes as makeup or tattoos for an act, and several Las Vegas attractions and magicians have live tigers.
Van Stry makes the rakshasas part of civilization. The Indian government encourages them to settle along the Indian-Chinese border to discourage Chinese invasion. Rafael’s abusive slave-master has used his Rakshasa powers to make himself a billionaire, and Rafael sues him for enough to make himself independently wealthy.
So Rafael settles in Las Vegas. He can’t go back to college, but he’s not hurting. He’s got all the money he needs. His head-to-toe tiger stripes make him popular with the girls. He can wander through the casinos and drink in the excitement and joy, filtering out the negative emotions like greed and disappointment. Later he uses his shape-changing ability to become a popular Elvis imitator, and he has all the positive emotions he could need.
Here Rafael discovers that he has matured further as a rakshasa without the supernatural power of his former master holding him back. (This also displays CreateSpace’s lack of proofreading.)
“He opened his eyes and looked down at his body. He was covered in fur, but not the light coat he’d had after Janet, no this was the fur of a tiger, and it matched the patterns of his markings.
Examining the palms of his hands, and the soles of his feel [sic.]. he now had dark pads, his fingernails and toenails had disappeared, and when he flexed his fingers, long wicked claws slid out of their hiding places in his fingertips.
Standing up then, he moved across the room in almost a glide as he came to the mirror and looked himself over. He felt stronger than he had before, more balanced, more in tune with his being. Then he noticed his face.
He had a tiger’s head.
He looked a bit closer and longer, it wasn’t actually a real tiger’s head, but it was close. It was a bit more humanoid, and more sized to fit his body. Turning to look at his profile and take the time to admire himself, he noticed he had a tail now as well.” (pgs. 67-68)
Tigers are also very territorial, and Rafael settles into Las Vegas as his city. So he isn’t happy when he senses the death and corruption that he associates with vampires.
“He caught a whiff of it then. He froze, the hairs on the back of his neck starting to rise, and looked around carefully sniffing at the air. Tt was faint; he could just barely detect it. Seeing that there was no one around, he shifted into his full rakshasa form, that he’d achieved for the first time only just hours ago. He grumbled a little as the seat of his trousers split, he’d forgotten about the tail, and his clothing felt a little tighter now, with the fur sprouting from his skin, but with the tiger’s head, came the much stronger tiger’s sense of smell.” (p. 74)
Rafael scents the vampire and gets rid of it and its followers. Then Rafael and his girlfriend Janet Hoskins find another vampire. And another. Las Vegas turns out to be the vampire capital of America. And Sonny Capridella, the Godfather of all the vampires (who also controls the drug dealers and all organized crime in Las Vegas) sets them all to finding out who is conducting a one-monster war against the Vampire Mob.
I don’t review werewolf horror fiction, but The King of Las Vegas (cover by eBook Launch — prices start at $349) is more of a furry superhero against vampires/the Mob action thriller. Problems: besides the lack of proofreading mentioned above, there is Jake’s pathetic French accent:
“‘He is not being zee rude,’ Jake said leaning forward and flashing a rather devastating smile. ‘Your boyfriend, he has zee powers zat make him zee most powerful being in zee city. Zat comes with a responsibility, no? So it is for zee best zat he always remember what he is. It is safer for all involved, most especially for himself.’” (p. 184)
If you want something besides pure furry fiction and you like a good-monster superhero fighting vampires who are also gangsters, try The King of Las Vegas.
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