With so much evil in our today’s brave and largely chaotic new world – genocide, famine, terrorism, economic turmoil, insufficient women rights, psychedelic drugs – one lonely and lovely vampire discretely feeding on the weak and the sick could easily blend into the landscape, do her things and be hardly noticed. And that should be the case except for the national security or rather national surveillance police state that we live in where very little goes unnoticed and, once noticed, it’s seldom ignored. American Blood is the story of one such vampire who, after centuries of generally minding her own business and judging humans by their nutritional content rather than the content of their character is forced to take sides and become a tool and active participant in our country’s GWOT, or global war on terror. Intertwined into the political intrigue and action-adventure main story line is the sweet but troubling and inevitable love story between the previously food-obsessed and femme fatale Calida, the ancient but twenty-something-looking vampire and the intelligent, curious, highly ethical but all-too-human and still a bachelor Ryan, the molecular biologist who finds himself working for some super-secret government outfit. And it’s worth noting that, to Ryan’s distress, his employer is nothing but a tool enabling some top evil men sitting at the top of our military-industrial complex to project and implement the secret and sinister agendas. And, since I mentioned ‘molecular biology’, all is spiced up and made more interesting by Ryan’s and other scientists’ attempts to understand the mysteries surrounding the origins, the genetic makeup and the anatomy and physiology of a vampire.
The fact that I finished reading the 300+ pages in less than 2 days should back my claim that the book is ‘hard to put down’ or ‘a page turner’ – I know, these are cliches but this was my experience. It’s for most part what I would call ‘easy reading’ except for the paragraphs and chapters that discuss experiments and scientific findings. The narration is fluid and it’s done skillfully enough to keep the reader always wondering “what’s next” and keep turning the pages, which I did.
I will not go into a detailed discussion of the characters because it would reveal too much of the plot but also because the author is using a broad brush to paint for us the transformation of this lovely and lethal vampire who no longer cared much about human concerns into something that becomes increasingly a lot ‘like us’. The same can be said about the others, their traits and features minimalistically depicted as outlines or near-archetypes. We are introduced to the young and somewhat naive scientist, the evil and manipulative politicians, the soldiers, the drug kingpin, the Muslim fanatics – whatever it is that keeps them in motion is constant and they stay consistent and play their parts as we would expect them.
The story is at its most immersive whenever the relationship between Ryan and Calida is covered. This is done tastefully, in not too many words or paragraphs and with very little blood but the constant erotic tension between the two and the transition from hunger/fear to mutual attraction to empathy to love is probably the best realized thread. The action scenes are close seconds and I appreciated the author’s ability not to overdo the fights but still serve us sufficient carnage, blood and dismemberments for us to stay interested and motivated to keep reading.
Less developed are ‘the other side’ or sides. The evil ones. We can see from their actions and their plotting that they are evil and some of them map or hint strongly at real life politicians or terrorists but it wasn’t quite clear what was or is driving them to be the way they are and to do what they do. I suppose we could live with our own versions of the ab(d)ominable Dr. Fu-Manchus but the ‘why do they do these things’ question was largely unanswered as far as the baddies were concerned. Finally, the ‘scientific’ part could benefit from a little editing. The author is undeniably competent when it comes to biology and scientific experiments but some of the passages dealing with the topic, while informative, seemed just a tad too long.
Overall, I view ‘American Blood’ as a good, light but intelligent and sometimes thoughtful reading experience. I see it as one of the better in its class and clearly heads and shoulders above the ‘average’. By the time I finished the book I found myself emotionally invested in the main characters’ fate to the degree that I wish a sequel will come out soon.
Note: The ‘5 stars’ I feel the book deserves are granted within the context of today’s fantasy-action-thriller genre with some extra credit for what is, I believe, the author’s ‘first book’.