Science fiction and fantasy                                            



A Craving For Blood

by Mark H. Walker

cover  
The first few pages of A Craving For Blood suggest that this will be a dark vampire novel, dripping with bloodlust. We're not talking about the sort of supernatural undead who fear garlic and crucifixes, but about a genetically altered superhuman assassin with cravings for the red stuff. This is an assassin who resists her urges to take life and feed on blood, despising what it represents.

However, it turns out that this isn't the assassin's story. Ayron Whitehawk and Jeff Gunshee are two Apaches living on the planet of Sediana, and this book has more to do with them. They are part of an underclass of settlers who are ruled over by the TDF, or Terran Defence Force. The TDF are made up largely of genetically enhanced humans known as the Purebred. The Purebred look down on natural-born humans and treat them badly, restricting their trade and activities.

When one of the Purebred assaults a natural-born woman, Ayron and Jeff step in to defend her. What happens next is the catalyst for an armed conflict between the Apaches and their oppressors. The Apaches just happen to find a hidden stash of ancient Abrams tanks in the desert, tipping the odds in their favour.

Anyone familiar with wargaming may get a sense of déja vu at this point. The setting and the weapons are very derivative of the Battletech games, and Walker uses similar or the same terminology for the weapons. This is a very masculine novel, overloaded with machismo and filled with reverent descriptions of the machines of death.

Unfortunately the characters have had less attention lavished on them. This is partly because there are so many of them, with almost every plot twist bringing new faces. As a result we never really get to know the central characters well enough for them to leap off the page. For example, the evil Captain Pershaw behaves in such an extreme and brutal way that he never rises above a caricature.

There are a few romantic relationships going on, but the build-up to them is so abrupt that they fall flat. Walker just doesn't seem to understand how to develop sexual tension between characters, or how to make their exchanges sparkle with chemistry. Instead what we get is melodrama by the bucket. The characters cry, rejoice and rage, but no matter what they do the effect is strangely unmoving.

The plot does move briskly, although far too many different threads tend to overcomplicate the story. However, it's actually quite hard to read this book at a normal speed, thanks to an appalling lack of proofreading. There are so many typos and grammatical howlers it gets very distracting.

Themes of freedom and racial intolerance run through A Craving For Blood, themes which have parallels with the events of our times. But the author is fond of making his political points bluntly and often, to the extent that the dialogue between certain characters is as blatant as a manifesto in places. This lack of subtlety demonstrates what is wrong with this book: too little attention has been paid to the details that would have made it a believable and entertaining story. A Craving For Blood is simply too rough around the edges.

Book Details

Year: 2006

Categories: Books

  Science fiction
 

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1 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson