Fantasy Book Critic

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"The Society of S" by Susan Hubbard

Posted by cervantor on PM000000120000000031 1, 2008

Official Susan Hubbard Website
Buy “The Society of S” via Simon & Schuster
Read An Excerpt from “The Society of SHERE

A current Professor of English at the University of Central Florida who has received teaching awards from Syracuse University, Cornell University, UCF, and the South Atlantic Administrators of Departments of English, not to mention many other educational accolades & achievements, Susan Hubbard is also an author of two critically acclaimed short story collections (“Walking On Ice”, “Blue Money”) and two chick-lit novels (“Lisa Marie’s Guide for the Perplexed”, “Lisa Marie Takes Off“). So, besides an impressive scholarly background, what was it that drew me to Ms. Hubbard’s latest novel “The Society of S“? In a nutshell…vampires. Of course, if you ask the author, “The Society of S” isn’t a vampire novel. It‘s a ‘coming of age’ tale that just happens to have vampires in it. And that’s a pretty accurate assessment. So, while the inclusion of vampires is what hooked me initially to “The Society of S“, it was the wonderful storytelling that kept me glued to the pages.

Essentially a memoir, “The Society of S” is told in the first-person point of view by Ariella “Ari” Montero, chronicling her earlier years, mainly as a 12 and 13-year old. To be brief, Ari is living a sheltered life in NYC with her father Raphael Montero, the housekeeper Mrs. McGarritt, and her dad’s work associates Dennis & Mary Ellis Root. As Ari grows older, not only is she finally getting to experience all of the things that she’s been deprived of – friends, TV, riding a bicycle, etc. – but she’s also learning more about her family’s past, including the mother (Sara Stephenson) that abandoned her, and the heritage that may have been passed on to Ari. As the book progresses, be prepared for acts of self-discovery, convergences of the past & present, murder, mysteries – solved and unanswered – treachery, and yes, vampires.

So how does a book that employs two of media’s most overused clichés – coming of age stories and vampires – set itself apart from the mundane? I’ll give you two words…Susan Hubbard. It’s obvious from her teaching background that Ms. Hubbard possesses a certain pedigree and refinement in her writing that immediately separates her from other authors, and is clearly evident in “The Society of S”. In other words, the prose is excellent, managing to be graceful, intellectual and concise all at the same time. Characterization is superb, particularly Ari who is realistically convincing as a youth evolving into adulthood, but secondary players are also believable and interact well with one another. On top of that, Ms. Hubbard does a good job staying up to speed with current popular culture – Myspace, Wikipedia, well-known literature such as Jack Kerouac’sOn the Road” and Edgar Allan Poe, music (NiN, Johnny Cash, Joy Division, etc.) and role-playing all play a role in “The Society of S“. And finally, the pacing and command of the story is well done, so even though there’s really no pulse-pounding action, edge-of-your-seat thrills or heart-stopping frights, “The Society of S” is a real page-turner that is hard to put down.

As far as the vampires, I’ve seen a lot of different variations of vampirism in many diverse formats (TV, film, comics, videogames, etc.), but nothing quite like what is depicted in “The Society of S”. I won’t explain everything, but Ms. Hubbard’s vampires are realistically portrayed, grounded in nearly plausible scientific applications and governed by most of the same rules as humans are. So, while the vampires may possess such fantastic powers as hypnosis, reading another person’s thoughts and emutation (invisibility), their use of these abilities is regulated by ethics (or lack of) and dividing hierarchies (Colonists, Reformers, Nebulists, Society of Sanguinists, Environmentalists, etc.) that mirror our own. Personally, I found Ms. Hubbard’s version of vampirism to be quite refreshing, and I would love it if a whole series was dedicated to them. Alas, vampires aren’t what “The Society of S” is about, so even though the book ends on an unresolved note, and I could see a sequel or two, they probably wouldn’t be the kind of story that I, as a fantasy/horror lover, would envision 😉

At the end of the day, despite being a bit different from the novels that I usually cover, Susan Hubbard’sThe Society of S” is a pretty compelling story that is hard not to like, no matter your age or usual preference. After all, while the book may be wrapped up in supernatural packaging, at its heart “The Society of S” deals with real, everyday issues, and if you give it a chance, I think you’ll find yourself finishing the novel long before you want to…


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