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Literature / Midnight Mass (2004)

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Midnight Mass is a 2004 vampire novel by F. Paul Wilson, based on his short story of the same name.

A plague has swept across the planet, transforming the majority of the population into bloodthirsty vampires. A few survivors in New Jersey, including a rabbi, a disgraced Catholic priest, a nun, and a tough-as-nails young woman, join forces to fight back against the undead and their human collaborators.

Unrelated to the 2021 Netflix original series Midnight Mass (2021)


Midnight Mass contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Lacey is shown to be more than capable of defending herself. Subverted when she is gangraped by a group of cowboys, though she quickly recovers and finds revenge against her rapists.
  • After the End: By the beginning of the book, most of the planet has been taken over by vampires. Although it turns out that there are more people around than previously thought.
  • Badass Preacher: Father Joe Cahill.
  • Big Applesauce: Franco resides in the Empire State Building.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Franco is destroyed, and his bloodline — except for Joe — extinguished with him, but Sister Carole is dead and Joe is a vampire still fighting to retain his humanity, and almost everyone else is dead or turned. However, Lacey and Joe now have videotaped evidence that killing a Prime will also destroy those turned by them, giving the remnants of the human race a chance to fight back.
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  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Subverted. Franco doesn't recognize the turned Father Joe because he was disfigured. He remembers him as soon as Joe tells him who he is.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Seemingly a plot point. All the religious items used to fight the vampires are Catholic exclusive, and there's no real mention of crosses from any other Christian sects being used.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: James Barrett is a cannibal and a former Wall Street broker who directly works for Franco, in hopes of being turned.
  • Crapsack World: Comes with vampires being the dominant species and humans being their prey.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: The Palmeri arc takes up the first half of the book, until he is killed by Zev.
  • Fan Disservice: After being gang-raped, Lacey's naked body, bleeding from every hole, is thrown to Olivia. Doesn't take a genius to figure out what the cowboys did to her.
  • Genre Shift: It starts out as a pretty straight-forward horror novel, but about halfway through, it becomes an action-packed Mad Max style post-apocalyptic story with vampires.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Maybe. Artemis tells Lacey, Carole, and Joe everything they need to know about killing Franco and his bloodline, and asks to be spared, telling them that Franco has been mistreating him. It's unclear if he was telling the truth, because Carole kills him.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Two of them. Zev impales himself and Palmeri to stop him from turning Joe, and Carole blows herself up, along with Barrett, in order to ensure that Joe will kill Franco.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Crosses can not only leave a permanent scar on vampires, but can actually kill them.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Barrett, although he's never shown eating anybody.
  • Immortality Immorality: Cowboys collaborate with vampires so that they can be turned themselves. Subverted in that vampires are not actually immortal, and that they just "live" for many centuries longer than humans.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: How Zev kills Palmeri and himself.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: After getting off scot-free for raping children in life due to Joe being fingered as the molester, and later turning his former church into a sacrificial slaughterhouse, Palmeri is deservingly skewered on a wooden stake.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Lacey. She goes as far as taking her top off to distract a couple of cowboys before throwing a pair of napalm-filled balloons at their car.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Carole has this reaction for killing Artemis, after he pleads for her not to.
  • Narcissist/The Sociopath: Barrett in spades. He is a cannibal who has never felt anything for anybody but himself.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Instead of killing Joe when he had the chance, Franco feeds him to a mindless feral that he keeps as a pet. This comes back to bite him hard when Joe's wounds are cauterized by the sun and he returns to kill him, with the aid of his vampiric enhanced strength.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Vampire!Joe kills Franco without much of a fight.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The book opens with Zev watching one of Father Palmeri’s services and only describes his horrified reaction. Later subverted when it describes exactly what goes on at the services.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: For starters, there's Primes, whose origins are unknown, but fan theories say that they may have become vampires out of their wickedness in life. The vampires turned by these Primes are known as "get". First-generation get turned directly by a Prime manage to retain their full intelligence and a semblance of their humanity, such as Father Palmeri. Higher generations, turned by first-generation vampires and higher, tend to be somewhat less intelligent. Then there are the ferals, low-generation vampires whose intelligence varies by generation, but none of them can be reasoned with. All vampires' weaknesses are pretty basic. Crosses, consecrated wine, and holy water are fatal to them, a stake in the heart kills them, sunlight melts them, and towards the end of the book, it’s revealed that they are not, in fact, immortal, but that they merely have a much longer “life”span than humans. And if the Primes are killed prematurely, their get die with them.
  • Pedophile Priest: Palmeri was one before being turned. Joe was framed for his crimes.
  • People Farms: Revealed to be how Franco plans to keep his get around. His cowboys round up women as young as 15, bring them to "blood ranches" for them to rape and breed future generations to feed on.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Gregor has a few misogynistic tendencies. He is stated to have “lusted after women for their bodies” when he was alive, and despises Olivia in particular. Add to that, most of the cowboys working for him have a thing for raping any woman they can find, though they prefer attractive women.
  • The Quisling/The Renfield: Cowboys, also known as Vichy, are human collaborators who want to be turned by their masters.
  • Rape as Drama: Lacey is abducted by a group of horny cowboys and gang-raped by them, leaving her to undergo a brief but noticeable Heroic BSoD.
  • Religion of Evil: Palmeri holds gruesome church services for vampires in the desecrated St. Anthony's, where he murders humans found by cowboys and feeds them to his congregation.
  • Sinister Minister: Palmeri, pre and post-turning.
  • Sliding Scale of Undead Regeneration: Vampires can heal just about any wound, even severed limbs. But crosses or anything holy will permanently scar them, even kill them. An example of this is shown with the one-eyed vampire, Artemis, who was stabbed in the eye with a crucifix, and the eye never grew back.
  • Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness: Firmly on the unfriendly side, with few exceptions.
    • Blood Requirement: They actually don't require much blood. Just a few drops now and then will do, but since the majority of them encountered in the book are feral, this matters little.
    • Craving Type: Most vampires in the book, being feral, are unable to control their thirst and won't hesitate to rip any human they see to shreds just to get it. And the more sapient vampires are even worse, knowing full well what they're doing, and even setting up blood farms to slowly milk humans of blood for years to come.
    • Conversion: A simple bite will do the trick, and the victim will usually transform within 24 hours of the bite.
    • Morality shifts: Almost all of them undergo a Face–Monster Turn upon becoming a vampire. The origin of the primes are unknown, although it's possible that they became vampires due to their wickedness in life. First-generation get may have some capacity for morality, if Artemis pleading to be spared because he was tired of Franco's abuse is any indication. Ferals, on the other hand, are reduced to bloodthirsty, Ax-Crazy monstrosities, with their sentience depending on their generation.
    • Super powers: Usually the standard abilities of regeneration, strength, and speed. Some of them have wings.
    • Weaknesses: They're forced to shun crosses and daylight, which both have harmful effects on them if they make direct contact. However, they work around this by using human servants who can capture victims for them to feed on during the day, and remove crosses from view.
    • Appearance: They tend to look pretty normal for the most part, if not pale and/or blue-faced with fangs.
  • Stupid Evil: Franco in a big way. As punishment for Joe's meddling in his plans, he resolves to take the cruel option of feeding him to a mindless feral that he keeps as a pet instead of just killing him, believing that he'll become even more animalistic than the vampire he fed him to. Instead, Joe ends up having most of his ahem, ferality, burned out by the sun's rays when Lacey and Carole try to bury him, which leaves him with enough sentience and strength that he needs to take down Franco, whose final demise is only stalled by Barrett's intervention.
  • Take That!: In his first meeting with Father Joe, Franco says that he reads Anne Rice to the vampires, and they all howl with laughter.
  • Too Dumb to Live: During the assault on St. Anthony’s — which Joe and his former congregation had since purified — a vampire named Eva says, “I’ve always wanted to taste the blood of a deity.” It doesn’t end well for her.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Played straight with most vampires, except for Father Joe. After being partially burned by the sun, he shows a degree of control over his thirst. However, he is doing all he can to avoid succumbing to it.
  • Villains Want Mercy: Artemis, realizing that he's cornered by Joe, Lacey, and Carole, pleads them to let him "live" instead of killing him, in exchange for the information he gave them. It doesn't work.
  • Your Vampires Suck: F. Paul Wilson explains in the foreword that Midnight Mass is intended to be a Take That! to romanticized vampire literature, as well as a return to "traditional" vampires, as opposed to what he calls "pseudo-vampires" (i.e. from his own novel, The Keep). Also In-Universe, where Franco explains that he and his fellow vampires find the works of Anne Rice hilariously inaccurate.

Alternative Title(s): Midnight Mass