Monday, February 21, 2011

A Taint in the Blood by S. M. Stirling

A Taint in the Blood: A Novel of the ShadowspawnI used to read quite a bit of S.M. Stirling's work, until he started his postapocalyptic series of "The Change", and I just found them far too depressing to enjoy, so I laid off for a while. I discovered the first book in his new Shadowspawn series at the library, and thought I'd give it a go. There's really nothing new and exciting here, I think we've seen it all before, though perhaps not lumped into one big heap before.

The Shadowspawn are a sub-species of humans who have what amounts to vampiric and shape-shifting abilities, as well as a bunch of other minor "spells" that they have used to dominate the human race for centuries. Like the Illuminati on steroids, I suppose. Nearly everything horrible that has happened on Earth in recent memory is their fault, from the rise of Hitler to ebola, either just as a result of their twisted amusements or as a way to cull out the herd a bit. Their favorite thing to do is to rape, slaughter and drink the blood of humans, though not necessarily in that order, but you get the drift.

Their High Council has decided that there are far too many humans on the planet, and that they'd like to return to a much simpler time, so they are planning to use massive EMP explosions to drive civilization back to the Stone Age and wipe out most of the pesky humans, leaving the rest easily ruled. Some of the younger, more progressive members would rather not act so drastically, enjoying the fruits of modern technology, and merely propose a genetically engineered plague to thin the human ranks a bit. So, there's some major political machinations going on in the midst of the obvious plot in this novel.

One of the Shadowspawn, Adrian Breze, has renounced the vicious ways of his people and has tried to remain uninvolved in any of their power plays and sadistic amusements. His sister, Adrienne, steals his girlfriend, who starts out unaware of his non-human nature, away from him and makes Ellen her own sexual slave and blood donor. The human servants and blood donors for the Shadowspawn are, of course, called 'renfields' and 'lucies'. The foreground plot of the book is Adrian's quest to rescue Ellen and foil his sister's plans, with any luck killing Adrienne in the bargain.

This novel contains a ton of graphic, bondage and discipline, sado-masochistic sexual scenes, as well as brutal and graphic violence. In this, it's not much different from some of Stirling's earlier works. The story is somewhat amusing, however, and it's interesting to see how he explains away all of the horrible things that have gone on in the world by attributing them to the Shadowspawn, plus the belief in gods, demons, faeries, and all other things that go bump in the night.

One of the things I found fun was how Adrienne would refer to the flavor of Ellen's blood, depending on her emotional state. Phrases like, "Two distinct layers of fear, and anger, dread, longing, resignation, a very, very good beef bourgignon garnished with sauteed pearl onions and mushrooms. The sort cooks with a really fine Burgundy and a bouquet garni from a farm stall..." Priceless.

A most definitely adult novel.

1 comment:

Priscilla said...

All I can think, with your last comment, is of Sir Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs telling his little story about the census taker...