Dead Collections by Isaac Feldman

Are you a dedicated user of our Special Collections department, or another archive? Do you love urban vampire stories or LGBTQIA literary fiction? If you said yes, or are intrigued, definitely try reading Dead Collections by Isaac Fellman. I checked it out because I had heard it was good transgender representation set in an archival setting and was delighted by the love story and identity exploration amidst an archival mystery. Here’s a quick summary:

When archivist Sol meets Elsie, the larger than life widow of a moderately famous television writer who’s come to donate her wife’s papers, there’s an instant spark. But Sol has a secret: he suffers from an illness called vampirism, and hides from the sun by living in his basement office. On their way to falling in love, the two traverse grief, delve into the Internet fandom they once unknowingly shared, and navigate the realities of transphobia and the stigmas of carrying the “vampire disease.” Then, when strange things start happening at the collection, Sol must embrace even more of the unknown to save himself and his job.

I loved reading both the experiences of trans man Sol and Elsie, who goes down a rabbit hole of gender exploration while falling in love with Sol. I also thought the way the story’s different threads wove together was clever and unique; this isn’t just a romance, or an urban fantasy, or a literary fiction, or a mystery, it’s a truly unusual blend of all of these, and reads like a prose poem. Sol’s narration is also reminiscent of the storytelling in Life of Pi by Yann Martel, incorporating glimpses of and insights from different times in Sol’s life. Different formats (email, scripts, etc.) were also woven into the narrative to echo the multimedia landscape of modern life.

As someone who reads more genre fiction than literary fiction, I did find the poetic writing style difficult in places, but the raw and real emotions, in all their complexity, that the characters lived through were really powerful and profound. I recommend this quirky and moving book to anyone looking for a one-of-a-kind reading experience full of queer representation, cool libraries, and mysterious goings-on.

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