Book review

Review: Straight Outta Fangton – C.T. Phipps

198 pages/7.5 hours | Crossroad Press | Urban Fantasy/Paranormal/Vampires/Humour

CW: a LOT of bloody violence, off-screen sexual assault mentioned, other sexual content.

Late last year, author C.T. Phipps contacted me and kindly sent me a couple of books (eBook format) in return for an honest review. Sadly, I knew that it was taking too long for me to get to them, so I purchased the audiobook for Straight Outta Fangton (using my own money).

The digest: A highly entertaining paranormal urban fantasy showing the less glamorous side of vampiric life. This is not a serious tome focusing solely on vampirism and all it entails – though you will find gruesome and gritty elements here in heaps. It’s a pop-culture referencing, smoothly written, funny, easily digestible, and highly recommended break away from both the overly-serious Dracula tales and the flowery Twilight books.

From the book’s Goodreads page:

Peter Stone is a poor black vampire who is wondering where his nightclub, mansion, and sports car is. Instead, he is working a minimum wage job during the night shift as being a vampire isn’t all that impressive in a world where they’ve come out to mortals.

Exiled from the rich and powerful undead in New Detroit, he is forced to go back when someone dumps a newly-transformed vampire in the bathroom of his gas station’s store. This gets him fangs-deep in a plot of vampire hunters, supernatural revolutionaries, and a millennium-old French knight determined to wipe out the supernatural.

Sometimes, it just doesn’t pay to get out of the coffin.”

What did I not like?

  • There were a few passages where the writing is a bit clunky, or when the dialogue was a little too protracted. By this, I mean that occasionally the dialogue (or thoughts of the protagonist, Peter Stone) sound far too forced and unnatural. I must stress that this isn’t a consistent issue in the novel, but it definitely happens more than once or twice.
  • There are a few too many pop culture references for my liking. Discussing Jurassic Park – fine, it’s a classic that everyone can recognize it for what it is. Name-dropping actors who weren’t the most-famous ever… well not so much. There were a couple of times that the references were just lost on me, which had a negative effect on my immersion in the story. Part of this is obviously due to my age – I’m 22 and so a lot of popular figures from the past (i.e. those the protagonist is perhaps most familiar with)were before my time, but that just serves to reinforce the idea that such references date the book too heavily.
    • Similarly, my narrative immersion was also negatively affected by mentioning currently-popular figures, like Nathalie Emmanuel (the actress who plays Missandei in the Game of Thrones TV series) in terms of her acting career did the opposite of what it was meant to. Instead of finding the narrative more believable, I was just reminded that the novel is a novel, and it kinda broke a bit of the immersion for me.
      • Both of these come from a conscious style choice from Phipps, and whilst I can see why it would appeal to some readers, it didn’t work for me. Indeed, even if older readers could recognize and understand the references, there’s still no guarantee they’d appreciate them.
  • Whilst we learn a fair bit about Peter and a couple of his companions, I did feel as if some elements and relationships were brushed over a bit too quickly. There is a fair bit of ‘bad guy is bad’ and ‘good guy is good’, but it would be wrong to say that Straight Outta Fangton offers nothing beyond that. I just wish that some of the more morally dubious characters were a little better developed.

What did I like?

  • The story is engaging throughout. As I mentioned above, this is no whimsical tale of glittery vampires and their teenage sweethearts. No, Straight Outta Frangon instead has quite a complex narrative with many layers and story-threads working together to form a cohesive plot. The vampires themselves can be violent (and there are gruesome accounts of torture and bloodthirst-induced violence, some of which are not easily stomached), but also gentle. Being centuries old doesn’t necessarily make you a boring elitist – you might find yourself more than ever looking for new ways to spend time (like with a games console).
  • The writing is very accessible. There’s not overly-complicated prose here, just a fun story written with great clarity. If you like novels which get straight to the point, you’ll enjoy Straight Outta Fangton.
  • The plot is well-paced. In fairness, the opening few pages are a little slower than I had expected, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and on balance, I think that Phipps did a great job in varying the tempo where required.
  • The story isn’t overly complicated or poetic. If you go into this expecting a detailed character study and elegant prose worthy of the greats then you will be disappointed. This novel is basically an excellent B Movie in book form – and if you can just relax and enjoy the story then you’ll be more than satisfied.
  • The narration of Cary Hite is absolutely spot on – it’s easy to see why he was nominated for a top award last year. My one suggestion for improvement would be to practice the voices of female characters to sound more authentically… female. Obviously, not all members of one sex sound the same, but it’s not very believable to think that all the women here sound like a bit too traditionally masculine.
  • Good diversity – both natural and supernatural. We see fair new non-white characters (least of all the protagonist, Peter), along with those of different sexualities (I mean, if you’re a basically immortal vampire I can see why your sexual preferences might become more open over time!).
  • The worldbuilding is excellent. We see the different powers of vampires, the societies they have formed and influenced, the conflict that arose when their existence became public knowledge. As you might expect, vampires aren’t the only real paranormal being in this storyworld, and (limited though it is), I had fun seeing Peter and co. interacting with these groups.
    • There are also a couple moments of vampire-culture being referenced, too, which I appreciated. In a world where your cashier is quite possibly a blood-sucking paranormal being, you can also find Count Dracula if you searched hard enough. Some characters would have you believe that Dracula isn’t all that media has made him out to be, but that is something we might hopefully learn for ourselves in a sequel. (Not a clue if this is planned, but it’d be awesome if it did happen!)
    • I believe that the author has written other books which take place in the same universe, namely the Bright Falls Mysteries books, the first of which being I Was a Teenage Weredeer. I’d be very interested to return to this reality in the future to see how other parts of society get along with each other. Do the vampires have a total grip on the world order or do the weredeer (amongst others) share the power?
  • The book actually made me laugh out loud. This is a very rare occurrence for me, so I am more than impressed to see that Phipps managed it a handful of times.
    • This also demonstrates the author’s tonal range; one minute I’m shocked into silence as we are told the story of some frankly grotesque vampiric business, the next I’m chuckling to myself on my walk into university. Good fun.

The conclusion: 4.5/5 (rounded to 4 where required). I really did enjoy listening to Straight Outta Fangton, and I highly recommend it to readers looking for a humorous vampire story which doesn’t let up on the violence or… less pleasant parts of being a vampire. Unfortunately, the pop culture references, lack of character depth, and lack of polish in some cases mean that I can’t earnestly round this rating up to a full 5/5. It’s clear to me that Phipps is a capable author, and if he returns to the story of Peter then we might see an objectively amazing story. I’ll be picking up the sequel, 100 Miles and Vampin’ ASAP!

Correction: I original missed the fact that a sequel had already been released, so I updated the conclusion to reflect this.

2 thoughts on “Review: Straight Outta Fangton – C.T. Phipps

    1. Aaaaand onto my TBR it goes! I thought I had seen it somewhere but wasnt coming up in the Good readers series tracker for me. Will update the review now 🙂

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