Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dying Bites by D.D. Barant

This was one weird book. Here's the blurb, once again from (also the back cover):

Introducing the bold new Bloodhound Files series—and a novel that will knock you out of this world…
Her job description is the “tracking and apprehension of mentally-fractured killers.” What this really means in FBI profiler Jace Valchek’s brave new world—one in which only one percent of the population is human—is that a woman’s work is never done. And real is getting stranger every day…
Jace has been ripped from her reality by David Cassius, the vampire head of the NSA. He knows that she’s the best there in the business, and David needs her help in solving a series of gruesome murders of vampires and werewolves. David’s world—one that also includes lycanthropes and golems—is one with little knowledge of mental illness. An insane serial killer is a threat the NSA has no experience with. But Jace does. Stranded in a reality where Bela Lugosi is a bigger box office draw than Bruce Willis and every full moon is Mardi Gras, Jace must now hunt down a fellow human before he brings the entire planet to the brink of madness. Or she may never see her own world again…

I finished reading it a few days ago and I'm still digesting it. Not sure what grade to give it either: did I love it or was it just okay. Read on and out for spoilers :)

This story kinda played out that one of the characters on Criminal Minds gets sucked through a dimensional portal to a different version of Earth. This new Earth has less than one million humans left; the rest is split between vampires (pires), lycanthropes (thropes), and golems (golems). For those that are unfamiliar with golems in this setting (I learned about 'em from Hellboy), they are creatures made of sand inside a container of some kind (in Charlie's case, a plastic man-shaped sack...Think inflatable doll only butch) infused with the spirit of some kind of being, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral but mostly used as weapons or for defense. As I was saying, our main character, Jace Valchek, gets sucked into a new dimension where Earth is both the same and WAY different and the folks on this new place need an expert in insanity as it relates to law enforcement. See, vamps, weres, and golems have a nonexistent incidence of madness. This has never been an issue before but now they've got a serial killer traveling the globe, killing both vamps and weres in hideous ways. Hideous, but creative to be sure. The NSA needs Jace to track and capture the nut that is murdering people and once that is done, they promise with a cherry on top to send her home. Yeah, right.

The history on this new Earth is rewritten to follow the lives of vampires and weres. All the major events in humanity have still occurred but with a twist. WWII saw Nazis still inflicting racial purity and "Hitler declared that lycanthropes were being tainted by mongrel blood, introduced by humans deliberately to weaken the race. Mussolini agreed with him, and the Emperor - a hemovore [vampire] - saw it as an excuse to rid the islands of lycanthropes once and for all." Much of the same types of entertainment exist: television and music have similar genres and styles. I thought it was interesting that one of the only familiar things Jace encounters is the music of U2 under a different name. Did I also mention that there's no such thing as guns on this new Earth? Coincidence? Probably not.

And now to be serious...this book made me laugh many times. It also made me go WTF? Here's what I liked: 
  • Charlie the golem. He tells Jace that he prefers to be referred to as a "Mineral-American." He puts rebar in his neck when he thinks there's a possibility that someone might try to cut his head off and afterward, he gets repaired with duct tape. He's a smart-ass bad-ass who looks after his partner. 
  • This was a good starting point for the series. Barant sets up this new world, tells you why it's so darn perfect, and then proceeds to screw it up so that Jace has to stick around. Clever.
  • The lycanthropes (werewolf is just rude) have become so civilized that when they are wolfy or whatever, they use sign language to communicate. That's definitely a new one.
  • Jace. She is flawed, yes, but she's trying to make the best out of a bad situation. What else is a girl to do when she's snatched off her planet in the middle of the night and snarled at by a vampire while she stands in her office in her nightshirt? Now her new partner is a walking bad of sand and she's an endangered species. 

Here's what I didn't like:
  • The whole Animism thing. Jace's crime scene guy carries around in his pocket a rat skull. This thing has a name, is a liaison of sorts, and Mr. Techie (not his name) uses him to talk to other rats, animals, rocks even. Yes, they speak to rocks. Apparently, conversations with mountains can take weeks. I'm a good sport but this was pushing my limits of ridiculousness.
  • Having Jace's boss develop a little crush on her. The guy is attracted to strong intelligent women so of course he's going to like Jace. I will give him credit for owning up to all the awful things he's done in the past. He's still icky. It's not like she doesn't have enough problems already.
  • The villain in this first installment wants to make lots of trouble for all the pires and thropes to get retribution for all the horrible things they've done to humans. That's fine. I'm not going into more specifics about the ending but it made me roll my eyes. Not the outcome but the lead-up to the ending. I felt that it didn't fit the rest of the book.
The next book, Death Blows, is out on March 30, 2010. I am definitely looking forward to reading more of this series.

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