Monday, January 5, 2009

Book Review: 'Bloodshift' by Garfield Reeves-Stevens

3/5 Stars

Blood Shift’ (1981), by Garfield Reeves-Stevens is a suspense novel featuring contemporary vampires. These vampires are not the jaded decadents of an Anne Rice novel, but genuinely nasty creatures who delight in torturing and enslaving humans. They have lived in secret, as a kind of perverse European sub-aristocracy, for centuries. Aided by its human allies, the Undead Clan, from its position in the shadows of history, has manipulated the entirety of human affairs. But now the Clan has plans to emerge from hiding to conquer the world and turn mankind into their playthings.

Granger Helman is a retired assassin who finds himself hired by Diego y Rey, the leader of the vampires, to eliminate one Adrienne, a rouge vampire who opposes the Clan’s ambitions. Adrienne is on a desperate mission to alert the world to the menace of the Clan. Also in the mix is a special detachment of vampire hunters, created by the Vatican to destroy the Undead, and US covert operatives, who have their own reasons for not wanting to see the Clan gain control over America. All of these forces intersect in a violent struggle to determine the fate of the human race. Will Helman decide to serve the Undead, or ally himself with Adrienne ? Can the forces of the Vatican succeed in thwarting the vampires' goal of world domination ? Can the American covert ops forces be trusted, or do they have their own questionable agenda ?

‘Bloodshift’ features a cover blurb from Stephen King: ‘Garfield Reeves-Stevens is the Tom Clancy of horror’ and there is some truth to this marketing ploy. The novel has the pacing and character of a techno-thriller that happens to use vampires, rather than terrorists, as the primary antagonists. Helman and his allies are by no means superheroes, and Diego y Rey is a formidable adversary, so the outcome of the conflict is never tilted to the side of Good. In general, things move along at an engrossing clip all the way to the last of the book’s 280 pages.

There are some weaknesses to ‘Bloodshift’. There are a number of passages earlier in the book that suffer from too little exposition on the part of the author, and the identities and motives of the conflicting covert organizations are confusingly presented. Sub-plots dealing with scientists and their research programs into unusual infectious diseases pop up in a rather haphazard fashion and tie into the overall narrative in a clumsy manner at best. Some aspects of the storyline are more than a little contrived, and will have readers familiar with the Modern Vampire genre (think the ‘Blade’ and ‘Underworld’ movies) rolling their eyes.

But other parts of the book are well done; a flashback dealing with Adrienne’s initiation into vampirism is particularly harrowing. And while the middle third of the novel drags a bit, things pick up speed in the final thirty pages and the ending, while effective, is by no means telegraphed to the reader.

Overall, fans of action-oriented horror fiction, as well as thriller fans in general, will find something to like in ‘Bloodshift’. Those with a preference for a more subdued and slowly paced vampire story will probably not find it to their liking.

No comments: