Maria's Reviews > Bloodlands

Bloodlands by Christine Cody
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Aug 17, 11

bookshelves: western, paranormal-romance
Read from August 15 to 17, 2011 — I own a copy, read count: 1

The premise for Bloodlands is that a variety of events have undermined human existence in the United States. Expansive internet use has driven people into their homes, and so community cohesion has been destroyed. The government has intruded so deeply into everyday life that the country has become a dystopian place, with individual interaction heavily monitored and controlled by government forces. Then a series of catastrophic natural disasters devastates the population, damage that is compounded by terrorist attacks in which bombs are planted along fault lines to change the landscape of the country. This upheaval and drastic natural and societal change has driven the outcasts of society, those who can’t conform for one reason or another, to the frontier of what remains of the country. For these survivors the frontier may be harsh and unforgiving, but it is the only place where they have any control over their destinies.

Almost every chapter in the book is named after the main character that is the focus of the story, save the first chapter: This chapter details how an unnamed character stalks and murders a man in the wasteland. The character is depicted as not human and in the grips of an uncontrollable blood lust, but offers few clues that might shed light on who the character might be. In the next chapter the reader is introduced to Mariah Lysander, a young woman who has seen terrible tragedy, and she lives below ground in a home her father made before committing suicide. Mariah lives with her dog Chaplin, who was been bred and altered in a lab prior to the catastrophes. Chaplin is intelligent and capable of speech, and his obligation is to protect an extremely fragile Mariah. This is why Mariah is surprised when Chaplin brings home a badly injured stranger, Gabriel. Although she is desperately afraid of Gabriel, or the impact his presence will have the tiny community nearby that she depends on for survival, she is drawn to him and offers what help she can.

Shortly thereafter, Gabriel appears as the focus of a chapter for the first time, and the narrative voice reveals that he is a vampire who has come to the wastelands to seek his lost love. Like Mariah, his life has been shaped by tragedy, and his connection to the woman he’s looking for is his reason for a miserable existence. His search leads him into the wastelands where he is beaten by the employees of the local boss, Johnson Stamp. He remembers having been beaten, but he doesn’t know how he escaped or what type of damage he did to the human who hurt him. Despite this, he knows he has brought danger to the small human community in the desert, and his innate nobility won’t allow him to leave them without doing his best to protect them, especially because he is hiding his true nature and fears he is responsible for the death of the man who attacked him.

As the story progresses Gabriel learns that Chaplin is more than just an “intel dog,” and the canine had ulterior motives for bringing him to the group that involve Johnson Stamp and his strong-arm tactics. Although Stamp is a young man, he worked for the government as a “shredder,” a monster hunter responsible for destroying vampires, demons, and were-animals created by accelerated evolution brought on by natural disaster. The government has decided that there is no longer any need for shredders, and this is what has prompted Stamp to move to the frontier, where he can express his violent tendencies more freely. He will not allow the murder of his employee to go unpunished, and it seems that Gabriel is the only individual between Mariah’s group and Stamp’s wrath. But is Chaplin’s plan to use Gabriel to defend Mariah in her friends, or to provide a sacrifice to appease Stamp’s anger and aggressive tendencies?

I found this book a somewhat difficult read, and it took me a while to figure out why it felt like the story was dragging. The first major issue I struggled with is genre. This story is a post-apocalyptic western paranormal romance, and all of these elements seem to be competing for primacy, rather than blending seamlessly. I’ve seen all these used together, and this novel lacks the grace and thematic harmony I’ve seen in other texts. There is the frontier, and the survival of the fittest in this space under the threat of Johnson Stamp, whose attempts to enforce peace is simply a thinly veiled excuse to be violent. Then there is the discussion of the dystopian world the characters have fled, a world complete with dialects, political structures, and a history which the reader is told in glimpses throughout the story. This interrupts the flow of the narrative and made me have to go back and reread passages to be sure I remembered details correctly. Finally, there is the romance, which feels predicated on Gabriel’s hero-complex and proximity to Mariah rather than their mutual attraction to appealing qualities or admiration. Since this book is part of a trilogy, and the remaining books will be released within months, there wasn’t such a great need to cover so much material. One of these elements could have been deferred until a later book in order to reduce confusion.

Likewise, the narrative structure of the book plays a large part in slowing down the way the story is told and how the reader interacts with the novel. Each chapter, with a couple of exceptions, is named after either Mariah or Gabriel, and the narrative styles are different, and it is this irregular fluctuation between first and third person narration that causes discomfort. Mariah’s chapters are all written in the first person, a style that is mean to remove the distance between the reader and the character and to encourage intimacy between the two. I can understand this choice; Mariah is not a very sympathetic character for most of the book, and this may have been a deliberate move by the author to encourage the reader to sympathize with her enough to figure out why she is borderline agoraphobic and emotionally fragile. By contrast, Gabriel’s chapters are all in third person, which has the effect of creating distance between the reader and the character by putting the narrative voice between them. This pull to Mariah and push from Gabriel is uncomfortable, and this may be a deliberate choice by the author to include the reader in the feelings of stress and disorientation the characters are experiencing.

Despite these issues, I found the story an interesting read, and I plan to buy the remaining books in the trilogy. It takes nearly the length of the book for the narrative to address Mariah’s nature and demeanor, but once these revelations take place her character is a little more sympathetic and the rest of the story falls into place. Gabriel remains the most compelling character in the novel for me, but the story is driven by Mariah’s internal conflict and need to overcome tragedy. I suspect the next novel will focus on Gabriel more, and this gives me additional incentive to keep reading. I am also looking forward to getting more details about the paranormal aspects of the vampires, demons, and were-creatures. There’s a magical aspect to how these beings are made and unmade (i.e., vampires revert to human if their makers are killed) that I don’t quite understand, especially since the supernatural beings are the product of evolution and not a magic-based source. There are some mysteries here, and I’m interested in seeing where the author takes these elements.
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Reading Progress

08/16/2011 page 193
57.0%

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