Reviewed by Berni Phillips Bratman
[This review originally appeared in Mythprint 48:7 (#348) in July 2011.]
Vampires remain popular in fiction, and Bloodshot is a prime example of why this is so. Switching gears from her popular steampunk trilogy, The Clockwork Century, Cherie Priest dives into urban fantasy in a sort of vampire noir novel.
Raylene Pendle is a vampire and successful finder of lost things. Of course, they were not generally lost before she found them, but she doesn’t quibble over details like that. She prides herself on being so successful and androgynous that government agencies don’t even know what sex she is, much less that she’s a vampire. She stores her loot in a seemingly abandoned warehouse in Seattle, a warehouse that is now home to two scruffy runaways whom she refuses to think of as her pets.
A lone wolf among vampires, Raylene is surprised to be approached about a job by one of her own kind. Vamps are usually pretty self-sufficient, having no need of her services. This one is different. Ian Stott is a vampire, but he’s a blind vampire. His sight was taken from him when he was forcibly detained by a mysterious government project known as Project Bloodshot. He wants Raylene to find the paperwork from that project in the hopes that it may help a doctor give Ian back his sight.
Concurrent with her meeting with Ian, Raylene’s runaways report that the warehouse has been infiltrated. She returns quickly to encounter a man who claims to be an urban explorer and practitioner of parcour (or parkour as it is Americanized).
I knew from her blog that Priest has an interest in urban exploration – basically trespassing in abandoned buildings to see and perhaps photograph what has been left inside – but parkour was unfamiliar. She explains what it is in the text of the novel. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about it: “Parkour (sometimes abbreviated PK) is the non-competitive sport originating in France of traversing mainly urban landscapes by running, climbing and jumping. Participants run along a route, attempting to navigate obstacles in the most efficient way possible, using only their bodies. Skills such as vaulting, rolling, swinging and wall scaling are employed. Parkour can be practiced anywhere, but areas dense with obstacles are preferable and it is most commonly practiced in urban areas.” [from Wikipedia]
So, innocent trespasser or government Man in Black? When a girl’s got to decide quickly, she tends to err on the side of caution, and that was the last parkour outing for him. Raylene winds up dashing around the country picking up inconspicuous cars and a highly conspicuous drag queen/ex-Navy SEAL as she hunts for evidence of the abomination which was Project Bloodshot.
Bloodshot is told in a folksy, occasionally profane, first-person narrative that keeps the story moving in a breathless pace. Priest is a skilled writer, giving us interesting characters who say clever things but do not impede the story with excessive chattiness. Her “info dumps” are well-integrated into the conversations without any awkward, “As you know, Bob”-isms. I was worried as I saw the page count diminishing that there would be a cliff-hanger ending and I would have to wait for the next volume to get the complete story. I was relieved to find that was not the case. While the ending may have been a bit rushed, Priest does not try to tie up all the loose ends. That adds to the credibility of her tale, for life doesn’t always give use tidy endings. Instead we have come to a satisfying resting place, and it is certain that we will be following Raylene on some more outings.