Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided for an honest review.
It’s been a while since I’ve pointed my dear readers to a book review; I typically post them on sites other than my blog (such as Goodreads or Amazon). However, there are times when I want to say more about a book and so where better than my own cave?
The review to follow is broken into three sections: The Good, The Challenging, and The Bottom Line. Let’s get started …
You all know me — I am a fan of things that go bump in the night (or day, for that matter). Mr. Patterson has decided to give his readers a unique view of the world of vampires in Blood. When I first read the teaser, I was intrigued: a woman’s strange dying exclamation, a Viet Nam soldier, an infant son, a mysterious doctor. Patterson’s own background and the lead-in to the text was right in my toolbox. The soldier (one of the primary characters), Adam Davis, is an African American and there are so few ‘serious’ fiction books that portray a non-European in this way. Think about it: who’s the last African American vampire you can think of?
The story offers a view of Chicago and gives the reader a taste of 70s street lingo in a way that is not overbearing or outlandish as is often seen in films of the period. The parts of the story (most of it, in fact) that take place in Japan include generally well-placed references to history and customs. Some of the imagery is vivid:
The rain soaked cobblestone road mirrors the headlights of the Toyota van as it lurches fitfully up the otherwise darkened road. The branches of the trees planted near the roadside sway like crippled hula dancers in the high winds.
Since Blood is a vampire story, there are expectations: fangs, bloodsucking, super strength, super speed, sleeping in the day, great night vision, and other powers. Patterson has those areas covered. His description of where the main characters rest during the day is pleasantly creative (no spoilers here!).
There is a humanity to the primary characters. Davis’ assigned mission as a vampire is not to simply create more of vampire kind, nor is it simply to feed. Dr. Stein, Davis’ mentor, has a serious love interest and what could be identified as a noble call that in essence supports the good of humanity.
Many of us have had discussions about writing, not just as something we do in these spaces but in a more serious way: we have multiple works-in-progress, have self-published, have offered teasers of books about to be released, and celebrate together when one of us gets an agent or deal of some sort. Writing is more than a hobby.
One of the pitfalls of being a writer who reads is that we can get awful persnickety about the basics, so here’s where I had a bit of trouble.
Blood has not been properly edited.
There — I said it out loud. At 367 pages, I struggled to make it all the way through. If it weren’t for sheer curiosity, I would have stopped reading because of the various issues that could have been cleared up by a good editor.
Tense shifts drive me batty (yes, that pun was intended) and they are rampant here. From past to present to past to present. Pick one and stick with it, please.
Incorrect modifiers come in a close second:
“Right away sir.” Captain Morris says. And true to his desire in less than one half hour the ambulance arrives at the front gate carrying Adam on a stretcher.
If you peg multiple issues in that example, you get a bite of the teacher’s apple. However, my focus was on the misplaced modifier. How could the ambulance that arrived at the gate carry anyone on a stretcher?
There are spelling and punctuation foibles:
Adam found the beer smooth yet very much different from American beers he’s has before.
Don’t misunderstand: All ‘finished’ manuscripts have a typo or three. Pick up one of the current NYT Best Sellers and you will most likely find at least one. I poured over my doctoral dissertation and after it was published on ProQuest and I received the bound copy, I found a typo in the first few pages. Face palm me embarrassed. It happens.
Perhaps this next point is all pet peeve — please tell me if it is and I’ll work on it. In my own work, I follow the academic tenet of spelling out abbreviations at first use. A writer does that for the benefit of readers who may not be familiar with the local vernacular. There are some abbreviations in Blood that should have been spelled out or explained (such as in this sentence: The slow steady drone of the UH 1d serenaded the soldiers in their huts below). So maybe it is okay to let the reader imagine a UH 1d is some sort of airplane. But what if it’s not? The reader might have an image of a DC10 when he or she should have been thinking of a large helicopter. And then there are items that should be spelled out just for general principle, such as ‘First Lieutenant’ instead of ‘1st Lt.’, ‘Where’s Second Platoon’ instead of ‘Where’s 2nd platoon’, or ‘B Company’ instead of ‘B Co.’ in dialogue or as part of a sentence.
One of the other issues that editors catch is when the action is off:
They slowly got up to run to the back entrance even though they could not see it they were assured that there was no one so that they could make a successful run for their lives. Then before they could stand Michiko appeared and yelled for them to stop and sit down, to the total amazement of the few patrons at the tables.
Yes, I will give you a second bite of the apple for catching the other issues there, but the focus is on the sitting and standing: how can anyone get up to run if they haven’t gotten up?
Editors also catch when we repeat ourselves:
Even two Tokyo policemen smile in enjoyment then they smile, look at each other and continue their patrol along the street.
The Bottom Line
This is the first installment of a series and to be honest, I’d be interested in reading the next bits.
However, I would strongly suggest to the author that he put out a second edition of this book after it has been properly edited and revised. Being a writer means having thick skin: we think what we put down is fantastic but until it’s been reviewed and revised, it’s just a bunch of words. Writer’s groups, alpha and beta readers, a publisher that either invests in the editing process or at minimum has go-to resources for new authors is vital (and as an aside, Trafford Publishing may not be the best option; this post is from 2013 but should send up the red flags).
The story is potentially interesting, but readers will get lost early on. The story begins with the deathbed exclamation, which is a decent hook. The development of Adam, Jr. and his connection to Mr. Livingstone needs work and possibly could be as short as the deathbed exclamation since the focus of this part of the series is on Adam, Sr.’s experience.
With some sweat, Blood could potentially be a great piece of writing.
If you’d like to read a sample, visit Amazon here (this will take you to the Kindle version).