I brought the first 30 Days of Night Omnibus with me to the beach this week. It might not be standard beach fare, but it's almost Halloween! This morning I reread the original series. It's still a marvelous concept: a group of vampires attacking Barrow, Alaska during the month when there's no sunlight. And Ben Templesmith's art is wonderfully atmospheric.

It's awfully short, though. The space of three monthly issues doesn't give Steve Niles much room for development. We meet the characters and the plot unfolds very quickly. There's a subplot about someone from New Orleans coming to record the event so the existence of vampires can be proven that I had completely forgotten.

I'm looking forward to reading the first two sequels, which I've never read before. They're both six issues long, which should give the creators enough room to really establish the world that I've already read about in several of the later books in the series.

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Today I read the first three issues worth of Dark Days, the first sequel. It begins by recapping sheriff Eben's death scene with Stella, watching the sun come up. Then it jumps to 16 months later, as Stella leaves Barrow for a book tour for her book 30 Days of Night, her account of the vampire attack. I have seen the movie, which so far has followed the plot very closely, but it's still nice to see Templesmith's impressionistic visual interpretation. The movies don't even try for that effect; it's much more natural to film the action more realistically.

Judith Ali (the woman from New Orleans who showed up only briefly in the first story) travels to see Stella to offer her support in proving that vampires exist. Turns out that Stella will need the help. Her first public appearance features the public execution of vampires using sunlight-simulating lamps, but reports of the incident leave out that detail; and her publisher has labelled her book "fiction" against her wishes.

And one final surprise: a vampire she is about to kill tells her that her husband's grave was disturbed so he could be brought back to life. He promises to bring her the remains, and she lets him go.

A lot happens in the second half of Dark Days. An important character is lost, which surprised me, because I expected her to play a long-term role. On the other hand, Dane the vampire continues helping Stella, and survives. Stella also pulls a surprise on the ancient vampire queen Lilith, which I'm betting makes her a recurring enemy.

Oh, and Stella brings Eben back from the dead, and he appears to be very hungry...

Can't wait to start the next installment tomorrow.

Return to Barrow continues the story in a different way, by telling about how the town of Barrow dealt with the aftermath of the attack. A new sheriff arrives just before the month-long darkness falls. He's Brian Kitka, who was born in Barrow, and he's come to uncover the truth about how his brother and family died.

He is quickly brought up to speed by reading his brother's journal about the attack. It turns out that the town has had to defend against a vampire incursion every year since the initial attack. So this will be the story of how they deal with the vampires as a known enemy, rather than a complete surprise.

It occurs to me that I have already read the continuation of the Eben and Stella story, in the later volume titled Eben & Stella.

Nice bit of full circle at the end of Return to Barrow: turns out the new sheriff isn't the only character who has returned. I see why the first three books are sometimes called the "30 Days of Night Trilogy." They tell a complete story: if you read the original series and wondered how things turned out in the aftermath, the two sequels do that. The later volumes explore the world of vampires in different ways. Of the ones I've read, only Eben & Stella ties directly into the core Barrow story. It fills in the gap between Dark Days and Return to Barrow.

Back home, and I wasn't planning to read any more of the series. But I had to reread Eben & Stella now that I've read the events that preceded and followed it. The story begins with Eben's return: he immediately turns Stella so they can be vampires together, which initially is not something she expected or wanted. She runs off and accidentally finds herself in possession of a vampire baby. Much of the plot then revolves around a new vampire trying to become queen--evidently Stella's explosion in Dark Days did kill Lilith after all--and a pair of vampire hunters tracking the would-be queen and her entourage. It's all a bit muddled, with vampires using the Net to communicate (a new thing for their kind) and the baby somehow being seen as a major source of power.

In the end Eben & Stella walk away, bound for home, which leads into the events in Return to Barrow. I'll find out if the new vampire queen figures into the later stories I haven't read yet. It seems too big a plot development to ignore.

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