Book Review: July 1992


In The Blood

In The Blood, SLUG Issue 43.Nancy A. Collins

For those of you anxious for a new vampire novel but are unwilling to wait for Anne Rice, Roc Books has released In The Blood, the latest in author Nancy A. Collins’ three book (so far) series.

Cantered on the exploits of reluctant bloodsucker Sonja Blue, In The Blood begins with the recruitment of detective William Calumet Palmer (a hard-boiled character much in the style of Bruce Willis’ classic Moonlighting persona, David Addison) to discover the whereabouts of Ms. Blue.

But all is not as it would seem in this situation. The employer, one Dr. Pangloss, is himself a vampire. In fact, Pangloss is a powerful member of that “fraternity” and has some information for Blue and a mission of sorts. Even the choice I of Palmer has a deeper motive: it seems he has acute psychic ability.

Before long, the investigator has discovered Sonja Blue, and he becomes involved in that mission, which concerns the progenitor of Blue herself, Lord Morgan, and his plans to develop a master race of vampires. Some of the vampire elite see a threat in Morgan’s blueprint and seek to eliminate Morgan, a purpose which nearly dovetails with Sonja’s thirst for vengeance.

All of this sounds preposterous and hokey—and it often is. Collins employs a no-frills style that is skimpy with literary devices and cuts straight to the tale at hand. Unfortunately, she also manages to use every shortcut and cliché available to authors. Most of the events are either obvious before they occur or are telegraphed far in advance.

Even worse is Collins’ use of cardboard or stock characters, with the only exceptions being Sonja Blue and William Palmer. Only in these two is there some semblance of “life”—Sonja with her duality of spirit between the human side and the vampiric “Other;” and Palmer with his awakening psychic awareness and discovery of a Mayan past life.

It seems there should be good material here for an exploration of the shades of gray involved in the battle of good vs evil, but everything is paired with such heavy-handed and broad, strokes, that any point becomes obscured.

In all fairness, however, there is some merit to the book. It never lapses into overt melodrama, as many works in this genre are wont to do. And it is a fairly quick and entertaining read. Plus, Collins should be applauded for employing a powerful female as a protagonist, something lacking in most works of horror.

Additional high points include Collins’ evident scholarship in magic and myth, indicated by her inclusion of demons, efreeti, elementals, trolls and other creatures among the denizens of the underworld. There are also numerous in-jokes and references for the truly hip—especially in regard to Twin Peaks and the Church of the SubGenius. Who can hate any book which names one of the ruling vampire lords Dr. Benway?

But even in the denouement Collins cheats the reader. While it’s admirable that In The Blood—although a sequel to the earlier After Dark and, Tempter, may be read and understood without those earlier books, the shortcomings of Collins (who is also the writer on DC Comics’ Swamp Thing) make the novel a massive disappointment. Unless you’re one of those folks who loves vampires.


Check out more from the SLUG Archives:
Concert Review: Soul Asylum
Record Review: December 1990