Monday, April 23, 2007

In The Blood – review

Author: V Lucien Maier

Released: 2005

Contains spoilers

In the Blood is an independently released vampire novel (the first of two) which is available for purchase directly from the author in either pdf or audio format. It is the audio version that I have listened to – so apologies if I have misspelled any of the more unusual character names. Firstly kudos to Maier for the obvious effort put in to producing such an audio.

The story is concerned with Taylor (primarily) and his best friend Scott. Whilst rock climbing, they cross a mountain stream and an accident with a fraying rope causes them to fall over a waterfall. When they awake they are in a cavern and, unable to escape the way they entered, explore deeper.

They find the (rather high tech) lair of a vampire named Thurant and they are given two choices. Thurant will not harm them but will either wipe their memories or turn them. They choose to be turned, though it is clear that Thurant was actually waiting for Taylor – who proves to be a uniquely powerful vampire – and the fate aspect of the story does mean that certain situations seem to occur with ease through the novel.

It is here that we should investigate some of the new lore that Maier has introduced. The vampires came to be some 1500 years previously. A young man experimented (alchemically it seems) with ways to improve the human condition. He failed. However, the potions he created, which had no obvious effect on him, did alter his sons when they were born, at a genetic level. They lived improved, but relatively normal, lives until they came across a murder and an urge overcame them – they drained the fresh kill.

The younger son, Tinar, returned home and confessed what had happened. He was locked away and, after three days, the bloodlust which had consumed him was defeated. Rayond ran into the night, succumbing to his new addiction. It was discovered that the brothers could change others with their bite. When someone is bitten they see a change in themselves, as well as gain a blood thirst, but they are relatively weak. Once they drink they come to full power and, if they detox for three days, can control their addiction. It seems that the physical addiction only lasts for a few days but the psychological addiction lasts eternally.

It is an interesting and unusual premise, as is the idea that sensitivity to light (not just sunlight) is directly proportional to the amount and frequency of blood drunk. The more a vampire drinks the more deadly light becomes.

Scott and Taylor opt for vampirism, and also the first drink and detox – choosing a rapist and a murderer, respectively, as their victims. Scott remains with his girlfriend as Taylor hits the road. His road trip takes him to Los Angeles where he meets another vampire, Tricia. Tricia has never fed, nor has any of her group. They live in fear of the Nightshade – a group of evil blood-drinking vampires.

The book does have some technical issues. The prose themselves could use a tidy up, for example, in dialogue you do get sections where each line of dialogue ends in “…. said”, over several turns of a conversation. Another example would be saying something like “he had to ask”, then speaking in the character’s voice to pose the question and then ending the dialogue with “he asked”. It just feels a tad clumsy but these, and other such issues, could easily be solved by a good proofread and edit through.

The audio book version has issues also. We get odd moments where the volume and recording quality obviously changes, also, occasionally, one sentence will be clipped too close to another, without a natural pause. These seem to be issues with the editing process and could easily be solved with professional audio editing. I understand, however, how difficult it is to make even a short recording and I repeat the kudos, given at the head of this, for making a recording of this length (some 3.5 hours).

That said, the key to any book is the tale and this has an interesting premise, unusual lore and a good story idea in the clash between the clean and addicted vampires. Many of the issues I’ve mentioned are born of the independent process and the difficulties that a new author faces in getting the support of the commercial industry – which would have set a team of professional editors at the work. Maier can take this and polish it to create a little gem – the bare bones are there and I hope he takes my criticisms as constructive. As it stands, this kept me listening which is the goal of any author – to have people hear their tale, 4 out of 10 would rise once the problems have been ironed out.

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