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Literature / Unique

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Everyone thinks of themselves as being unique, an individual protagonist surrounded by a supporting cast consisting of everyone else in the universe. Which is actually true. Unfortunately for the solipsists, the same is true of everyone else. Daily life in a city consists of thousands of protagonists wandering around, each of them the star of their own story. So what happens when some of those protagonists think they're especially special, just because everyone else is clearly only natural, rather than supernatural?

Unique is a modern fantasy novel by Andrew Miller, set in an unnamed city that four separate groups call home. The vampires living in stately Semele Manor redefine the notion of the wealthy one percent. The werewolves living on the upstairs floor of their garage fix cars and bikes and trucks for a living, in order to pay the bills and keep the fridge stocked with meat. The Magi hide in plain sight, working their magic and observing their ancient religion. The only ones the cops have any real trouble with are the hunters, who have been slaying vampires and werewolves and other predators of humanity for a very, very long time, and are very good at it. Even if they're presently oblivious to the fact that some of those predators of humanity have a mailing address just up the block. For half a century all four groups have failed to notice each other, moving in separate paths around the city... until this week, when all their orbits finally intersect.

Unique provides examples of:

  • Badass Normal: the hunters don't have the unnatural strength or magic of any of the other groups, but Helga was still easily able to beat the stuffing out of eight better-armed thugs, despite being an old lady. And thugs aren't even the thing she specializes in.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Helga's backstory includes fighting demons, vampires, Nazis and demonic Nazi vampires.
  • Cool Old Guy: Kuluranjan, the wise and goofy mentor of Sajan.
  • Culture Justifies Anything: Clauss openly rails against this. In his opinion, traditional werewolf culturenote  consists of behaving like the worst of humanity, then justifying it by claiming to be behaving like a wolf. He'd rather act like a real wolf - which is to say, like a dog who can take himself for walks and can find his own dinner.
  • Da Chief: Lieutenant Sanchez gets along a bit better with Jan than with Helga. Nobody likes being compared to Nazis.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: All the vampires... depending on which vampire you ask. Some of them view past centuries of bloodshed and atrocities through a Nostalgia Filter.
  • Dog Walks You: Emma starts to fantasize about this sort of thing, after a few dates with the boy with the beautiful dark eyes.
  • Dressed Like a Dominatrix:
    • Ophelia the vampire dresses in a glossy-black synthetic leather catsuit when she goes out for a night of clubbing and drinking. The occasions she dresses like that for are basically exercises in dominance over the "kine" around her. She even thinks to herself that she looks like she ought to be carrying a whip. It's partially also glorying in the fact that she's finally lived long enough to reach an age where a woman can get away with that sort of aggressively sexy attire.
    • Early in the book there's a scene of her mentally sneering as she passes Emma (whom she doesn't know yet), who is also dressed in black leather but does so because it's practical for motorcycle riding, and who gets a minor predator's thrill out of wearing real leather.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Kuluranjan, so much. One of Sajan's lessons is understanding that his teacher is also the class clown.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Clauss makes his point about how little he thinks of werewolf culture by doing this to Gunther as an example of what tradition can let them get away with.
  • Enemy Mine: After the Masquerade is broken in spectacular fashion, Aelfric and Clauss are forced to improvise a fix on the spot. Fortunately Aelfric was dressed for the occasion.
  • Flock of Wolves: The whole plot is this.
  • Hopeless with Tech: Some of the older characters are this, although it generally doesn't slow them down much. Not Aelphric; he loves computers, telecommunications and especially the Internet.
  • Horrifying the Horror: This cuts every which way. All the main characters are possessed of impressive supernatural abilities. But even as they're trying not to visibly shake in terror, the lethally dangerous terror they're facing is... also trying not to visibly shake.
  • It Gets Easier: Defied with The Coroner. He bluntly tells his visitors that it never gets easier to deal with murder victims, and he does his job so he can help catch their killers.
  • I Will Tear Your Arms Off: Played with. Clauss WISHES he could do this to customers who piss him off. But of course... he can't. Being able to snatch the head right off an Entitled Bastard of a soccer mom only makes it worse when you know it'd be bad for business. And Agent Smith wouldn't like it.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Invoked and averted when Jan tries to interrogate the muggers for information regarding the serial killer. They're visibly terrified of the young white male demanding information regarding missing white women, and Jan can understand why. Jan also remembers his grandmother words on the subject of torture. He walks away and leaves them be.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Lampshaded but dismissed by Aelfric. Too many people, and most of them have cell phones.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Sajan is a pacifist who only wants to help people and make the world a better place. Then someone with big fangs and a very dark aura threatens his girlfriend.
  • Love at First Sight: Sajan and Emma.
  • The Men in Black: Agent Smith is all about this.
  • Muggle Power: a variation on type 2, the supernatural individuals in the story were not killed, but were tracked down and told that if they made trouble, they could be killed.
  • Old Master: All four elders of their respective groups are this almost by default. Special points goes to Helga; her debut appearance has her surrounded by muggers in an alley and her grandson begging her not to kill them.
  • One-Word Title: The book is called Unique because everyone thinks of themselves as unique.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The changes in the general depictions of vampires in popular folklore (from rotting corpse horrors to glamorous seducers) over the centuries is showcased in the behavior of the vampires themselves. For centuries they were bandits and night horrors, sleeping wherever it was safe during the day. Then came the Renaissance and the realization that they could spend some of the treasure they'd amassed over the centuries to pay for safe buildings to sleep in, and humans to guard them... and other humans to do things, because this was the start of what would become corporate culture. After centuries of accumulating wealth with the assorted East India Companies, buying up real estate, and investing in a diversified portfolio since the start of the New York Stock Exchange, vampires have become the wealthy idle elites living it up in glamour.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The werewolves depicted don't want to hunt their loved ones, or roam the woods at night. Mostly they just want to stuff their bellies of tasty BBQ, and ride really fast on their motorcycles. Especially Clauss, who loves to organize the annual Bikers For Babies event for his town.
  • Papa Wolf: When Clauss rushes to stop his son from doing anything stupid to his daughter's boyfriend, he arrives just in time to see all three being threatened by something infinitely more dangerous. It goes badly for the one doing the threatening.
  • Police Are Useless: Played straight, downplayed, then ultimately defied.
  • Poor Communication Kills: None of the characters ever tell each other what they are, and several characters try to kill each other because they assume hostility.
  • Serial Killer: One of the plot threads revolves around the hunt for a serial killer who MIGHT be a supernatural creature of some sort.
  • Take That!: Against so many things. Twilight, Teen Wolf, TwentyFour, and more. Much of the book involves poking fun at more melodramatic examples of the genre.
  • The Apprentice: Sajan and Jan both fall into this category. Sajan has spent all his young life training to be a Farahvashi, a Magi shining as a light in the darkness. Jan has spent his life training to be a Veiðimaðr, hunting those who would hunt humans.
  • The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: This, along with Appeal to Tradition, is why Gunther tries to stop his sister from dating a Muggle.
  • Too Dumb to Live: At least eight muggers try to attack an old lady with a cane, while her grandson looks on. Later three of them try to avenge themselves upon the grandson. It turns out about as well as you might expect.
  • Trickster Mentor: Kuluranjan delights in being this. Not so much to impart a lesson as because he thinks it's hilarious.
  • Through His Stomach: gender inverted with Sajan and Emma. Sajan always shares his food with Emma, and enjoys watching her eat possibly even more than he enjoys his own meal.
  • When Elders Attack: Helga walks with a cane because she promised the cops she'd stop carrying an axe. She still carries multiple knives and a hand cannon big enough to bludgeon a werewolf senseless with.
  • You All Share My Story: mostly by coincidence the four main characters run into each other throughout the story. All of them assume the others are normal humans, except for Jan, who assumes Sajan is some kind of dangerous monster, possibly even the serial killer they independently spend the story looking for.