Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines – review

Author: D L Snell

First Published: 2007

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: “Zombies have devoured mankind. And the few survivors would be better off dead because a clan of vampires, bloodthirsty and vicious, have captured the remnants of humanity for livestock.

“In an apartment building barricaded with wrecked cars, concrete rubble, and snarls of barbwire, the vampires breed lobotomized amputees. Ann, the secret blood slave of the maternity doctor, has escaped this fate, yet her sister Ellie has not. Though she longs to escape, Ann cannot abandon her sibling and unborn niece. But she may have to if she wants to survive.

“The living dead have found a weak spot in the barricade and are quickly invading the building. Shade, the vampire monarch, defends her kingdom, while Frost, Shade’s general, plans to migrate to an island where they can breed and hunt humans. In their path stands a legion of corpses, just now evolving into something far more lethal, something with tentacles – and that’s just the beginning.”

The Review: Regular readers will be aware that I have longed for a decent amalgamation of the vampire and zombie genres, mainly around the zombie apocalypse theme. To date those efforts I have come across just haven’t cut the mustard. There is something compelling about the idea of vampires versus zombies, they seem mutually exclusive as creatures.

I stumbled across this title, well actually it was kind of thrust in my face by an Amazon recommendation. I hoped that finally someone had done the concept justice and yet the blurb worried me. When it started mentioning tentacles I feared we had strayed from the pure zombie genre into video game land. Whilst we might have strayed from the purist shambling dead, this proved to be no bad thing.

The zombies are known as puppets and are controlled by a growth in the brain called the puppeteer. The puppeteer was a bio-engineered experiment, from Nazi Germany, designed to reanimated dead soldiers. American scientists continued the experiments, using stem cells to enhance the parasite. An accidentally bred mutant strain became airborne in spore form, infecting humanity.

Some were immune to the airborne variety, but no one was immune to a bite from an infected. Even the vampires were endangered by the bite. Whilst they would not be infected, the battle between the parasite and their immune system would cause a vampire to literally melt. This, of course, offers a level of danger for the vampire characters. Because of the design, the puppeteers have evolved and are proving morphic, intelligent and capable of repairing their dead hosts.

Other than the danger offered by a zombie's bite, the vampires are very much how you would expect vampires to be, lore wise. They are incinerated by sunlight and killed by a wooden stake to the heart. Their bites are addictive, causing a sexual reaction in the victim. Snell does capture the hunger they feel in a wonderful way: “Inside her belly, the Beast woke, a hairless mastiff, all muscles and teeth, a collar of spikes and a steel chain, the epitome of her hunger. It grumbled and drooled around molars and tusks. It tensed, snarled, and lunged.”

These vampires, are not the romantic vampires of Ricean fiction. These are dangerous predators (with a traitor in their midst). However, whilst the vampires are not gothic in their attitude there is a dark gothic to cyberpunk richness to the prose.

Take the title, for a start, it is wonderfully poetic. That level of lyricism haunts the twisted apocalypse described in the book. Offering more than just danger and survival horror, it offers a level of evocative eroticism with a poetic soul as well. However the book does not get lost in its rich prose, at its heart it is a horror filled action packed rollercoaster and never loses sight of that. Ghosts and madness abound and I, for one, could not put this down. 8.5 out of 10.


D.L. Snell's Market Scoops said...

Thank you for the review--much appreciated!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

no problem - thanks for the novel