Wednesday, November 17, 2010
First Published: 2010
The Blurb: In the near future, a new world order society mercilessly eradicates the last victims of the “blood virus”, “Vampyres”, constantly in fear of discovery and persecution, live and walk among humans as ordinary people with an extraordinary reality and a haunting past; a deal to save the last vampyres is struck, but intrigue, deception and betrayal ensure that while the sun will rise tomorrow, no one knows who will live to see it.
The review: Blurbs… sometimes I hate them. The blurb for this book is a stream of words that isn’t very will written (candidly) and incorrect. This is not a book set in the near future – more like 400 years hence. The comment about the sun rising is almost a misnomer as it is a world of almost constant rain. The media pack actually tells us more. It talks about the death of the global jihad (in 2036) and the last ditch attack of the fundamentalists – the Tears of Allah, a bio-attack known in the west as the Blood Virus. I felt this was a bit stark – a bit in your face. The building of the story's history, within the actual book, is done with much more subtlety and craft.
So what do we actually have? We have a world drawn around us that is a dystopian view of tomorrow. Early into the book I had a distinct feel of Bladerunner, with a brooding sky, constant rain that explodes into devastating and deadly storms (as though the earth was trying to rid itself of humanity once and for all), neon holograms advertising products to an exotic throng, hovercars flying to higher city levels, whilst the lower levels seemed dangerous, brutal. All this. it seems. was deliberate as Meek builds in a location called the Tannhauser Gate and later mentions a Tyrol Corporation (not a million miles from Tyrell). Is this a problem? No, the city is skilfully painted in words, the resemblance is noted and even celebrated and there are distinct differences too.
In this world Meek explores the attempt by the Vampyre Lord (who was the last US President in office as the world fell apart) to draw a treaty with the Premier – actually his many times Grand Daughter (although she seems unaware of that) – to allow the few remaining vampyres to live in peace with humanity. In the meantime praetorian squads hunt vampyres and Charlotte, a vampyre, is tasked by her own people to hunt down rogues also.
The world becomes much more complex than that, Charlotte is sent after Michael – her lover and husband – who has betrayed the vampyres. Soon we discover that it is not the case, but, and here is the aspect that was slightly frustrating, we never have explained to us why it was necessary to have her hunt him. There are machinations, plots and counter plots occurring that Meek keeps deliberately obscured. Purposefully, it would seem, threads are left dangling before us, at once enticing and frustrating. We meet one character, Jeremiah, only very briefly and yet the climax of the book is his countermove for his own motivations. As the novel ends we are no wiser as to what has occurred with most of the main characters. Is it to be revealed in a sequel? The book is the first in a series and so one hopes so. I do know that I was left with more questions than answers, I know that this led to a frustration at the end of the novel and yet the frustration was balanced against the skilful writing and clever characterisation.
Onto the lore, and there isn’t too much to tell. The vampyres are faster and stronger. They have extendable fangs and claws, changes wrought to the physiology by the virus. They are immortal (it would seem) and the correlation is made to cancer – though their condition is like cancer in reverse. They drink blood to survive. There is never sunlight but they do say that sunlight is not an issue and, when mentioned, Dracula is brought up – hinting that Stoker’s vampires were destroyed by the sun, which is blatantly not the case. I re-read the passage and still drew the same impression so chose to believe it is an error on the part of the characters and not the author. Religion is a theme within the book, an undercurrent bubbling away, but not necessarily for the vampyres – they are the product of attempted genocide and not through a deal with the devil, to paraphrase the Lord Vampyre.
This is cyberpunk with a deliberate Bladerunner chic and a history drawn in such a way that we feel we know much of what occurred through glimpses and reflections. Extremely well written but frustratingly opaque by the end – you are left screaming for more clarity and clamouring for the sequel so that you can continue your dive into Meek’s dark world. 7.5 out of 10.