Thursday, March 15, 2012
First Published: 2003
The Blurb: America was fighting a Cold War against the Soviets. It was the CIA versus the KGB, a covert war fought to contain the struggle so that real war would never break out. The year was 1965, just three years after the nation had retreated from the nuclear nightmare that almost occurred over Soviet missiles in Cuba.
When the CIA found a supernatural creature (thought to be mythological) in Hungary, they thought they had won. It was a creature they thought could be contained and controlled... one they thought they could bend to their will... a creature so horrifying, it was only spoken about in whispers, so even the walls wouldn't hear. But, they forgot one important thing ... they forgot that you can never dance with the Devil unless he calls the tune. Now, at the dawn of the 21st Century, it has escaped... and the real nightmare has only just begun.
The review: This book is an exemplar of the saying, “Never judge a book by the cover”. Certainly the cover and the blurb do not seem to marry; the cover suggests something gothic, whilst the blurb promises us a law enforcement/spy/black ops type story and that is what it delivers.
Ecker batters us with quick pace and razor sharp prose as we tumble into a world where, in the past, the CIA have tried to harness the power of a vampire for their own agenda. These are the Past Sins of the title and as the vampires start to expand and step out of the shadows and into the Californian night we meet some wonderfully brutal undead.
There are two types of vampires… actual vampires and revenants. Revenants are tainted turns that act more like zombies with little to no cognitive functions – late in the novel the vampires use such revenants as shock troops. The main vampires are damaged by UV rays, must be beheaded, cremated or staked through the heart to be killed. They have the ability to eye mojo victims and have telepathic abilities. They are affected by religious icons – if the wielder has faith (a fact that the modern day CIA handlers have forgotten) and they all become disciples, upon being turned, of Lilith. Some deities are more likely to make an appearance to their worshiper than others, a situation that is not to the advantage of the humans.
The second half of the book becomes an action-fest as various agencies (National Guard, the army, the marines, the police, the FBI and the CIA) try to contain an outbreak that looks set to change the balance of power in the favour of the vampires if they cannot be stopped.
The great thing about the novel, beyond the actual prose, is the fact that Ecker has made his vampires altogether evil and powerful. Brutal killers sat in their rightful place upon the food chain. 8.5 out of 10.