Bloodshot/Cherie Priest

Ballentine Spectra, 2011

I thought I’d take a break from Gilgamesh and The Book Thief—and that may be the first time those two books showed up in the same sentence—so I read Cherie Priest’s urban fantasy Bloodshot over the weekend. 

The book is fun.  It’s not a long read, under 100,000 words.  Raylene Pender, our first-person narrator, is a vampire and a master thief who is hired by another vampire to steal some mysterious papers from a government facility. The caper turns out to be more complicated, and more personal, than Raylene expects. 

Priest seems to be still working out both the biological and political systems that support her vampires.  Since she uses a quote from The Princess Bride herself in the book, so will I: Priest’s vampires aren’t exactly undead, they’re only “mostly dead.”  It’s an interesting, if risky, choice. 

Raylene narrates with a breezy, blog-like style that works most of the time. She is supposed to be a flapper, turned into a vampire in 1929, but there is no 1920s sensibility here.  She is a Millennial from the toes of her stylish ankle-boots to the lid of her “wee laptop.” That isn’t really a problem, although I have a hard time believing someone who came of age in the 1920s wouldn’t retain some of those memories (she does have a story about meeting Dashiell Hammet when she was a child). 

The reader will have to consciously suspend disbelief at times; less about Raylene’s vampirism than about the prodigious amount of swag she has kept over the decades; less about the secret “government project” than about the sketchily defined, Mob-like vampire houses and their hierarchy. There is enough action happening to make the willing suspension of disbelief pretty easy. My favorite scene in the book is a cellphone conversation between Raylene and a teenaged squatter in one of her hidey-holes, as she guides him, from memory, through the air ducts and out of the structure, which is being searched by bad government Men in Black.  The scene does not have a lot to do with the immediate plot, but it is edge-of-your-chair suspenseful.

The book is set squarely in familiar territory with a few refreshing twists, like another vampire’s ability to control the weather, and Adrian/Sister Rose.  Adrian/Sister Rose is (are?) the most intriguing character (characters?) in the book. 

Priest isn’t interested in re-inventing the vampire mythos here.  She just wants her readers to have a good time.  I say get on your climbing gear, bring your night-vision goggles, and enjoy the ride.

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