The riveting and highly original Bloodlands takes place in a post-apocalyptic future disguised as a surreal version of the Old West. After experiencing rampant disease and massive climate change, the unruly segments of society rose up and the government exerted stifling control to keep order, resulting in many people leaving the cities to strike out on their own and live off the grid. Groups formed their own close-knit societies that typically shun outsiders as potential threats. Text-speak has become a common language among those sticking to the cities and relying upon technology, while Old American remains the communication method of choice amongst those choosing to cut themselves off from the world at large.
Mariah, a young woman living belowground with a group in an area known as the Badlands, spies a man outside who appears to be seriously injured. Chaplin, Mariah’s Intel dog, one bred for ultra-intelligence and to communicate via a language known as Canine, encourages Mariah to take the man in. Against her better judgment but out of curiosity and in an effort to placate Chaplin, Mariah brings the man, Gabriel, into her home. Though she has her suspicions, the reader knows before Mariah does Gabriel’s secret: he is a vampire. Supernatural beings exist but in the past had been dealt with by government-trained assassins called Shredders. Gabriel aids Mariah and her neighbors in their efforts to avoid Stamp, a brutal man moving into the area with a band of thugs looking for water resources to commandeer, which leads to confrontations that instill fear and rile tempers.
Post-apocalyptic fiction appeals to us because, on some level, it seems as though the events and situations described could really occur. Cody provides a truly believable setting made more realistic by allowing the reader to experience the grit and sand of the physical environment as well as the psychological states of the thoroughly engrossing characters—including Chaplin the dog. Equally balancing world-building and character-crafting results in a splendid narrative that completely grips the reader from the first page and never lets go. Deftly alternating chapters between Mariah’s first-person narration and Gabriel’s perspective serves to add breadth to both characters as well as ramp up the suspense.
A breath-taking surprise that adds a completely new dimension to this fabulous tale earns the author extra points. If it were possible to give five and a half tombstones, Bloodlands would receive them. This reviewer honestly can hardly wait for the release of book two in this terrific series, Blood Rules, and a return visit to this fascinating world.
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Ace (July 26, 2011)