Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bloodlands - Christine Cody

Christine Cody


This novel is the first of three, set in some not-too-distant future.  In this time, ecological disasters and disease have taken a serious toll on the world.  At some point, the Powers That Be decided that a lot of the west coast of the U.S. should be destroyed.  People cluster in urban hubs, working from home, having contact with only their immediate families.  No one ventures out unless it’s absolutely necessary.  The bad guys are everywhere and willing to do anything to survive.  The new west coast is a desert environment called the New Badlands.  It’s almost like the old Wild West, except for the new, mutated species and the fact that water, not gold, is the most precious commodity.

Gabriel enters the Badlands on a mission.  When he unwittingly trespasses onto the stake claimed by another new arrival, Johnson Stamp, he takes a vicious beating.  He manages to find the underground home of Mariah.  Mariah and several others have staked their claims as well.  These people come from many different backgrounds and have carved out dwellings and connecting tunnels under the earth.  All they want is to be left alone in peace.  Most fled the violence of the hubs and want to live out their days in private obscurity.

When Gabriel finds Mariah’s place and pleads for shelter, her first instinct is to throw him back out.  Outsiders only mean trouble.  But Chaplin, her Intel Dog and only true friend, convinces her to let the stranger stay, at least until the killing heat of the day passes.  Against her better judgment, Mariah agrees, unaware that she’s giving shelter to a vampire.  Gabriel wants to remain anonymous, too.  He plans to heal up and head back out as quickly as he can.  But when Stamp and his men threaten the group, Gabriel finds that he hasn’t quite given up on being human.

This story is a truly original twist on the classic Western; a sort of post-apocalypse Western crossed with a paranormal.  Many elements are recognizable, but most are twisted into new and interesting shapes.  At its core, this is a group of miners threatened by a big city upstart who wants to drive them off their claims.  They look to the mysterious stranger for help.  Even if you’re not a fan of Westerns, you’ll be drawn in by the intensity of the narrative.  Everyone is aware of the existence of vampires, but no one wants to shelter a monster, so Gabriel does his level best to conceal his true nature from Mariah and her friends.  And Mariah, who lost her entire family, is intent on concealing her tragic past.

The book starts out strong, and then seems to lag just a bit in the middle.  In hindsight, this is the author laying some very necessary groundwork and building believable characters and tensions.  The final third of the book comes back strong and contains some great action scenes and reveals that I never saw coming.  The world-building is done expertly, revealing the past in bits and pieces through the experiences of the characters.  The New Badlands is a brutal, unforgiving place and requires hard decisions from the people who live there.  For those who aren’t faint of heart, this is a new and original chapter in paranormal/fantasy fiction. 

Rating: 8
August 2011
ISBN# 978-0-441-02062-1 (paperback)


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