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Literature / They Thirst

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They Thirst is a horror novel, published in 1981 by Robert R. McCammon. The story follows a group of people in Los Angeles who are called by "dark forces."

The novel includes examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Gayle Clarke, a woman tabloid journalist; Father Silvera, an old priest who is slowly dying; Wes Richer, a stand-up comic; and Tommy Chandler, a young Genre Savvy kid who loves horror movies, count since they're just regular people who manage to survive the vampire onslaught.
  • Aerosol Flamethrower: One of the weapons a minor character uses to fight the vampires.
  • Albinos Are Freaks: Kobra has extremely pale skin, white-blond hair, and reddish eyes even as a human, something that most people who meet him find off-putting. He plays up his "freak" appearance with threatening red-and-black clothing and a gleeful indulgence in murderous violence.
  • All Bikers Are Hell's Angels: Of the most murderous sort. Kobra is an especially Ax-Crazy one, murdering people at the drop of a hat even before becoming a vampire, and Vulkan's biker division is under his command.
  • Anyone Can Die
  • Badass Biker: Several, including Kobra, Viking, and Dicko.
  • Badass Boast: Prince Vulkan gives one to the heroes near the end of the story about how better men have tried to kill him but failed.
  • Badass Preacher: Father Silvera, with a heavy dose of Religious Bruiser, given that he beats up heroin dealers and kills vampires while rescuing a little girl definitely counts. He also braves the city, filled with vampires and enveloped by a sandstorm, to rescue people with nothing but a crucifix and sheer willpower.
  • Big Bad: Prince Conrad Vulkan, the Master vampire himself.
  • The Cassandra: Captain Palatazin recognizes the signs of vampirism instantly due to an incident in his childhood and urges burning the victims' bodies to stop the spread of the virus. It isn't until around 300 pages into the book that anyone takes him seriously, and his superior forces him to take a two week vacation due to worrying about how much stress he's supposedly under.
  • Chain of People: Father Silvera goes to apartments vulnerable to both vampires and sandstorms and leads the residents back to his church while having them hold on to each other. He rescues over fifty people, but several people are snatched out of the first few chains, and when he brings the last one to his doorstep, everyone is snatched away at the doorstop when he has his back turned.
  • Cool Guns: Kobra's signature weapon is a genuine Nazi-era Mauser C96 pistol, which he bought in Mexico. It's his most valued possession, and he carries it with him at all times.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Rico Esteban, while not necessarily being presented as the main character, was given a lot of chapters devoted to him early on. However he ends up getting killed in the middle section of the book. His primary purpose seemed to be a way of getting Father Silvera (a major character) involved in the story.
  • Formerly Fit: Kobra doesn't initially recognize Viking when they meet, remembering him as "slim and wiry," whereas now he's got a beer gut so sizeable Kobra asks if he's "carrying a horse in there."
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Headmaster, who is heavily implied to be Ol' Scratch himself, provides Vulkan with all sorts of black magic, including a golden urn that causes a massive sandstorm.
  • Hate Sink: Roach. In addition to being a vicious, brutal serial rapist and murderer who desecrates the bodies of his victims with the roaches he breeds, tortures and kills in his free time, Roach is also a whiny, pathetic manchild who throws a screaming, blubbering tantrum when he's caught and interrogated by the LAPD, and is revealed to also be a racist and a convicted child molester.
  • Hero of Another Story: Vulkan's lieutenants tell him about large groups of humans fleeing the city via the Santa Monica Mountains, many of whom are getting past their patrols, but none of those people are shown, as the story remains focused on those survivors still in the city.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Wes in a last ditch effort against Vulkan fires his gun at him and ends up getting beaten to a pulp by Vulkan and then gets shot in the head by Kobra. However when he fired his gun, he manages to shoot Vulkan's golden urn which Vulkan was using to control the weather. By destroying that urn Vulkan loses control of the sandstorm he created which plays a big factor in the climax.
    • Father Silvera not long after Rich is killed, gets one. When LA starts to fall apart and sinks to the ocean (see above), Vulkan tries to escape but Silvera (who is already dying of Lou Gehrig's disease) grabs hold of him and after a long struggle is able to send him and Vulkan crashing through a building where a tidal wave comes and kills both of them.
    • Solange attacking Kobra gets her killed in the process but also ends up indirectly leading to Kobra's death. When they were fighting they roll into the fire place and after Kobra gets up and is about to shoot Palatazin and Tommy, the gun overheats and ends up exploding which blows Kobra's head off.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Headmaster is never clearly described, but he has eyes that glow like coals, black lips, and gnarled, claw-like hands. He is repeatedly called "it" and a "thing," and is all but stated to literally be the Devil himself.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: When Rico's girlfriend vanishes and her gangbanger brother thinks a rival gang killed or abducted her, he leads several other gang members in attacking the headquarters of the gang he suspects.
  • Magical Negro: Solange, who is half-Japanese, half-African (Bantu) and a practitioner of some sort of voodoo.
  • Men of Sherwood: In the final act, Marines do a good job of evacuating the remaining people of Los Angeles and there's no indication that any of them die in the process. Most of them serendipitously avoid the vampires rather than fighting them, but a chaplain at the refugee camp mentions that several Marines have come to him with stories about off-screen encounters with the vampires.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Gayle works for a tabloid called The Tattler.
  • Our Vampires Are Different : The word "vampire" isn't mentioned until over 100 pages into the story.
    • Also, they don't seem to need to be invited into homes.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Vulkan is a Type C. While he hasn't actually been a teenager for several centuries, he still acts like one. He is prone to outbursts of petulant rage and giggles with childish glee when he's about to kill someone. He's also grandiose, self-obsessed, and utterly convinced of his maturity and invincibility. This is made all the more frightening by his genuinely impressive strategic mind and personal power.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Prince Conrad Vulkan, despite his teenage appearance, is an ancient and immortal vampire who is, appropriately enough, almost exactly 700 years old. He was seventeen when he became a vampire in 1342, meaning he was born in 1324 or 1325.
  • The Renfield: Roach, a demented serial rapist and murderer, is chosen by Vulkan to act as his human agent, after Vulkan brutally disposed of his older, regretful Renfield.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Thanks to Father Silvera, the heroes discover that seawater is an anathema to vampires.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Vulkan disposes of his human assistant by crushing his head like a grape, mainly for this reason. He was prompted to do so by the man's increasing age and his doubts about his actions, and it's suggested that Vulkan has murdered all of his previous human allies when they became too old to work for him.