________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 37. . . .May 29, 2015

cover

Blood Matters.

Aviva Bel’Harold.
Calgary, AB: Edge, 2015.
330 pp., trade pbk. & e-Book, $14.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-77053-073-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77053-074-4 (e-Book).

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Kim Aippersbach.

** /4

   

excerpt:

She'd tackled him so fast, faster than the bullet he'd lodged into her. Once she had him pinned down, she slowly brought her hands up to either side of his face and gently placed them around his neck.

He instinctively brought his hands up to stop her and pry her off. No amount of struggling worked. Her hands were staying put. They were firmly held in place. Firm but gentle. They weren't squeezing.

Drain him, E.V., Brittany said, her thoughts soft, almost seductive.

"Two pints, coming up."

"No," Brittany whispered aloud, "take it all."

The man didn't have time to wonder what this strange girl meant. His thoughts started to race as if he were being strangled. Though he could breathe, he didn't feel like he was getting enough oxygen. His ears started to ring, his eyesight failed, and then he no longer felt Brittany atop him; he no longer felt anything.

For Brittany it was a rush to feel his body deflating under her. She felt his pulse quicken, then slow and finally cut off. She looked down into his glassy gaze. His eyes were empty. He was dead, nothing but a piece of lifeless meat under her crouched body.

 

Blood Matters is an interesting, almost Lovecraftian take on vampires. Brittany finds the dead body of her best friend, Emily, and, when she touches it, she is unwittingly infected with a parasite. The parasite communicates with Brittany by giving her hallucinations of Emily. It explains that it has replaced Brittany's blood vessels with its tentacles, and that it can extract blood from any human Brittany touches; human blood is now the only thing that can keep Brittany and her parasite alive. Brittany is horrified, realizing that she has become a vampire. She nicknames the parasite E.V., for Emily Vampire, and argues at length about the morality of feeding off others. E.V. assures her that she doesn't need to kill anyone, that she can take small amounts of blood from many different people, and they won't even notice. But Brittany begins to enjoy the sensation of taking blood and now has to fight her own impulses. Meanwhile, she begins a relationship with schoolmate Coby. After nearly killing him when they kiss, she forbids E.V. from taking any more of his blood. Brittany struggles with her attraction to Coby's blood which she finds difficult to distinguish from her attraction to his person.

     Brittany decides to make the best of her new monster status by only preying on people who are hurting others. She lurks in alleyways and saves a few girls from being raped. At first she insists that E.V. only take enough blood to weaken the men, not kill them. But then one of her victims shoots her, and she tells E.V. to drain him completely. The feeling of power and satisfaction this gives Brittany is too much to resist, and she begins a killing spree, justifying her actions by only killing criminals. During the day, she is still spending time with Coby. He notices odd things about Brittany and starts putting the pieces together; then he meets Mike online who explains what she is. Rather than being horrified, he offers to give her his blood freely, but Brittany is afraid she wouldn't be able to stop and would kill him. Once Coby learns the truth about Brittany's murders, he, however, rejects her. Mike convinces him to set a trap for Brittany. But Coby is caught as well for Mike is another vampire, and his parasite has a plan to infect Coby and mate with Brittany's parasite, thus creating a swarm of new parasites to infect thousands of people. Neither Coby nor Brittany is able to prevent the first phase of the plan from happening, and soon the parasite Jax has taken control of Coby. Although E.V. is sympathetic to Jax's goals, she loves Brittany and doesn't want to hurt her family, and so she helps Brittany commit suicide in such a way that E.V. will die too, and she won't infect anyone else. The novel ends with Brittany and E.V. keeping each other company as they drown in the ocean.

     Although the premise and plot of Blood Matters are horrific, the prose is very matter of fact and not particularly frightening or suspenseful. There is considerably more explanation than action; it feels more like a philosophical thought experiment than a horror novel. It raises interesting questions about the value of human life, about freedom and choice, about love and sacrifice. None of these ideas is explored in any great depth, however. Once Brittany decides to kill, she kills with abandon and barely a show of remorse, and her body count rises into the hundreds. She makes no distinction between "pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, and thieves", feeling heroic for ridding the streets of all of them.

     The love story between Brittany and Coby is based solely on physical attraction. Some of the creepiest scenes in the book are their make out sessions when Brittany feels more blood lust than anything else. They sleep together but don't have sex. The most convincing relationship in the book is that between Brittany and her parasite, E.V. Of the two, E.V. retains more of a moral centre; she is the one who helps Brittany practice restraint. By the end of the book, Brittany's only rule is that she won't let E.V. take blood from small children. E.V. thinks she is the only one of her kind in the world, so her only friends are her hosts, and she tries to be "a gift" to her hosts, healing their sicknesses and injuries and granting them long life. It is E.V. who chooses to sacrifice herself at the end—herself and her unborn children—and E.V. who comforts Brittany as she dies.

     Mike/Jax is a suitably evil antagonist with believable motivations for his horrifying plan. He doesn't enter the novel until halfway through, and he doesn't begin acting on his plan until very close to the end of the book, so there are missed opportunities for tension and dread to build up.

     Blood Matters might not have enough action or suspense to appeal to horror or paranormal fans, and it might be too violent for readers who would be intrigued by the ideas presented. The casual and undiscriminating murders in the name of vigilante justice are troubling, particularly as Brittany faces no consequences for them and her personality seems otherwise unchanged. The best audience for this book is probably older readers familiar with horror and vampire tropes who are looking for a new angle on an old story.

Recommended with Reservations.

Kim Aippersbach is a writer, editor and mother of three in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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