Sunset Strip (#4.5 Tome of Bill) by Rick Gualtieri Book Review

Write on: Sat, 08 Dec 2018 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 2850


THE TOME OF BILL series by Rick Gualtieri is a guilty pleasure of mine. Much like my Supervillainy Saga books, they're a lot of nerd references with a semi-serious take on the supernatural. Unfortunately, the books have an oft-putting quality to them due to Bill's causal use of sexist, homophobic, and abelist remarks (he constantly refers to Sally as a b*** for example). Indeed, those are a good reason not to buy them even though I otherwise enjoy the series.

SUNSET STRIP, by contrast, is a story about Sally Sunset and is easily the best of the series. It follows the adventures and history of side-character Sally as she goes from a girl with a repressive family background to a troubled Las Vegas stripper to a vampire. It's all set against the backdrop of rescuing the sister-in-law (potentially) of friendly antagonist Christy from meeting the same fate Sally did as a young woman.

I really like Sally, much more so than Bill, because she's a more serious character. She's suffered and been transformed by her experiences as a vampire. There's real pathos to her losing her humanity and trying to deal with the fact she's had some of her past morality returned to her. It's also cool to see her relationship with Colin and how much betrayal and hurt there is.

Las Vegas is the perfect location for a vampire story with its mixture of glitter, lies, sex, and broken promises. I'm surprised more stories don't take place there with the undead. I also like how Sally's story starts off fairly banal. She's just yet another girl in the Big City mislead by promises she might do something successful (albeit not quite as trite as if she'd been in Los Angeles). The characters of Marlene and Marc are also excellent antagonists as their connection to Sally makes her story more personal.

The book benefits from the fact Sally is significantly more mature than Bill both in attitude as well as storytelling context. While Bill mostly retains his humanity despite the fact he's still running a mass murdering coven (mostly by ignoring what's going on), Sally is a fully embraced fiend who we see walk the highway to hell up to the point she finally does the unforgivable (or so she thinks). You even cheer her on when she confronts her sister who assumes, automatically, Sally is a prostitute.

The relationships are also surprisingly complex. Sally loves Marc, the nice and sweet boy she dated in life but is attracted to Jeff the vampire to the point she's willing to cheat on her boyfriend (unaware the consequences will be horrific). Marc's anger warps him and his present self ruins the cherished memory which Sally has. Colin believes Sally could be something great as a young woman but dismisses her once she becomes a stripper to survive in Las Vegas. Marlene is myopic about her rulership of Las Vegas' vampires, content to just run her club to the exclusive of all else.

In conclusion, this is a really good book and I think not only will fans of the Tome of Bill enjoy it but that people who have no experience with the series will enjoy it. There's a decided lack of the usual offensive content (accurate to pre-millennial nerds or not) and Sally has more of a story arc. This reads like an excellent vampire novel in general rather than just a funny vampire novel satire.

Available here

Last modified on Wednesday, 10 March 2021 21:03
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.