Wild Blood by Nancy A. Collins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
When tragedy befalls Skinner Cade, he sets out to discover his origins - just who was his biological parents? Unable to keep his temper in check, his search soon takes a detour as he lands himself in prison, where an incident results in an all-out bloodbath. A monster resides within Skinner, one he's unsure how to handle, and when he's introduced to the world of the vargr, he's not even sure he wants to learn of his ancestry.
(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)
This was an impulsive buy at the local secondhand bookstore, as first and foremost, the cover caught my eye. It seemed almost comedic, so I was under the impression it would include some sort of black humour. I was wrong, however, and was confronted with over the top depictions of rape and incest that were heavily integrated into the plot itself. Don’t get me wrong, I love werewolves; the more brutal the better, but this was the first time where such disturbingly sexualised topics dominated the pages. It became apparent that important story elements were sacrificed in order to rush the plot along, and focus primarily on graphic content. I should also mention that I don’t have any issues with graphic content concerning sex, however if I feel such matters damage the overall story, then that’s where my problems lie. Despite being a short book, a lot actually happens; there’s before, during and after prison, as well as the rut melee with a lot in between. There certainly were interesting characters and predicaments that Skinner got himself into, but they were so underdeveloped that I just couldn’t get a proper sense of them.
Let’s start with the prison and Skinner’s relationship with Cheater. There appeared to be a connection between them, or something I couldn’t quite grasp. Cheater’s dream and use of the term “Prince” was certainly interesting, but it was so ridiculously vague. I also felt that the friendship in itself was bewildering, as Skinner, of whom was supposed to be a “good guy”, was perfectly fine with his companion stealing and murdering. If this had of been fleshed out, with time given to properly establish them both, then it just might have made sense. This goes for the later half of the book as well, where things rapidly progressed until Skinner was suddenly of great importance.
I actually liked Skinner to an extent, and I enjoyed that his life took a radical turn into the world of claws and teeth, but I couldn’t attach myself nor particularly care what came of him when his development left a lot to be desired. As a person, Skinner often fluctuated between being decent and being rather questionable, with what actually drove his actions leaving nothing but confusion. I think the intention was for him to be the unexpected hero; the good man thrown into the fray and always coming out on top - which I, ultimately, didn't care for. Don't even get me started on the last minute romance attempt, because it was positively absurd.
The shock factor loses its value if overexposed, at least in my case. Sure, the first rape scene (of a dog, I might add), was very much unpleasant, but each taboo subject thereafter only numbed me further. By the end, I wasn't even remotely surprised by what transpired. It was, without a doubt, very curious that Collins decided to go down the route she did - painting the species of "vargr" in a very ugly light, moreso than the usual bloodthirsty monsters of the genre. As it was, I had a hope that the entire race would perish.
In conclusion - I've changed my initial rating to accurately reflect my thoughts, from three stars to only two. It was overly rushed to appropriately develop the plot and characters, instead relying upon disturbing content to carry it through. A shame, as the concept itself was intriguing.
"The vargr are all belly and eyes. They desire all that they see. And that which they can not have - they destroy. Completely and utterly."
© Red Lace 2018
I'm reading the Bram Stoker Award-winning Sunglasses After Dark, by Nancy A. Collins, to celebrate the 7th Annual Women in Horror Month. If anyone would care to join me in reading this novel, which is considered a modern classic of the vampire genre, you can grab it on Amazon in Kindle format for just $1.99.
If you're all set for reading this month, you should still check out what Women in Horror Month is all about. There are tons of events tied to the celebration and a massive blood drive.
This is one of those wild weird west stories – and I really enjoyed every minute of it. So we got this guy, Johnny Pearl, wandering the Wyoming area post-Civil War. He’s killed a lot of people, has a reputation, and has to kill more people because idiots keep on challenging him to gun duels and won’t take ‘No’ for an answer. But then he finds his personal angel, Katie Small Dove. Too bad that doesn’t last long. The main antagonist, known as Cpt. Antioch Drake, strolls in and sets things ablaze, killing and hanging. But shortly after Drake and his soldiers clear out, a wonky medicine wagon rolls in, driven by Dr. Mirablis who has a special use for a hung corpse such as Johnny Pearl.
Even though this is novella length, we have a nice solid set up to give us an idea of who Johnny Pearl was before he met Katie, and who he was with Katie, to compare with what he becomes after Doc Mirablis hooks him up to a power source and forces him back to life. I really like that the author took the time to show that. Johnny starts off as a damaged warrior who isn’t sure he wants to warrior anymore but doesn’t see a good alternative (not until Katie enters his life). He goes from this typical damaged hero to this reluctant vengeful hero – a path I enjoyed reading.
Meanwhile, Doc Mirablis has a chip on his shoulder, something to prove. His once-friend and associate, Dr. Viktor Von Frankenstein, managed something incredible, and Mirablis plans to out do him! Cue evil scientist laughter. He’s already made a few attempts – such as the horse in the stable back at the hidden evil laboratory, and his two reluctant henchmen – Sasquatch and Pompeii. Sasquatch was made up of a collection of body parts from a slain Indian village, and as such, he has a rather unique take on his second life (or lives?). Meanwhile, Pompeii was Mirablis’s man servant for years before he died and Mirablis brought him back to life. There’s true loyalty there. But there’s a few costs to living for these once dead men (and horse). If Johnny doesn’t plan ahead, he could end up returning to the dead or becoming a true monster. Both costs make sense, but one is a wee bit bone chilling!
As you might have guessed, once Johnny gets his feet back under him, he is obsessed with revenge. Antioch Drake must die! But he’s not allowed to leave the hidden evil laboratory and the exit is well guarded. Too bad Johnny is rather single-minded, eh? The last quarter of the book is the most exciting. It was indeed nail biting. Given all the crap that has already happened to Johnny, and not knowing if there is a sequel out there (I don’t think there is), I was deeply concerned for our hero. I did not know if he would make it out of this story alive or not. When all was said and done, I was quite satisfied with how things ended, even with that little disturbing twist at the end.
My one little quibble is that we only 1 female character and she has such a small role, even if she has a big impact on Johnny Pearl.
I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the narrator (viaAudiobook Blast) in exchange for an honest review.
Narration: Lucas Smith was the perfect voice for Johnny Pearl. He had this gravelly, touch-of-sadness voice that really worked for the character. He had great accents for the other characters as well – like the German accent for Dr. Mirablis. The one female character had very few lines but Smith made them sound like a believable female. Later in the story, he has to make some interesting sounds for these walking dead men. An excellent performance all around.