Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Graham Masterton
Published by Leisure Books
Minor spoilers follow
I’ve read some Masterton before this book, but I will let you know right off the bat that I’m not familiar with either of the two previous stories in this series; The Manitou and Revenge of the Manitou, nor have I read Burial, which apparently features some of the same characters.
So I have a fresh start to the series with Manitou Blood, and it would figure I’d come in on the third and most complex book.
The story starts off with a young female street performer, who catches the attention of a passing doctor. Moments after finishing her act and having a sexually subtle conversation with the handsome doc, she ruins the moment by vomiting up copious amounts of blood. She’s rushed to the hospital where it’s determined that it’s not her blood, either, but the blood of two different people. Strange, wouldn’t you say?
Soon the entire city of New York is in the midst of an epidemic; people are showing up at hospitals with horrible stories about killing their loved ones because their blood was the only thing that could stop them from feeling like they were on fire. At the same time in another part of the city, psychic Harry Eskine (the main characters from the first two Manitou books) is seeing a kid complaining of horrible dreams that are ruining his life. Harry believes an evil spirit might be causing said dreams, and taps into his contact in the afterlife to bring the demon forth. What shows up is something far worse than anyone suspected, even his spirit guide, and soon it’s clear this is the cause of the rash of vampirism that’s taking over the city.
The island of Manhattan is blocked off as its population slowly goes from either human to vampire, or alive to dead. Either way, soon there’s only Harry and a few others to discover what’s causing the outbreak and how to stop it. Unfortunately, the truth behind it all is more complex than the characters, or the reader at times, can really comprehend.
Thought Masterton does manage to make the story of a vampire epidemic somewhat interesting, giving it a root more akin to a contagious diseases instead of gothy creatures that stalk the night, the reasoning behind it is multi-layered and more often then not just plain confusing. The characters are all well drawn out, even the ones that don’t stick around for too long, so you’re never taken out of the situation by having to fill in the blanks on a two-dimensional creation. Masterton knows the people in his tale and imbues them with the all-important spark of life.
My biggest issues with Manitou Blood were two-fold; first, it seemed to go from a fast-paced action story to slow, dialogue driven exposition without even batting an eye. Usually that’s fine when you give the characters a chance to rest from the horror, but the way it’s played out previous to them all holding up within on girl’s apartment is a constant siege. Now they’re inside and somehow they manage to have a few hours in which they can just sit around and talk about the issues at hand. Sure, it gives the plot some extra push, but it also slows the entire pace down a bit too much.
Second; the origin of the evil at the heart of the epidemic sweeping across New York. I won’t go into too much detail here so as not to spoil it, but suffice it to say it has to do with the heat from the decimation of the World Trade Center on September 11th and even though it’s very hard to get me to say this, I thought it was just in bad taste. That’s all I’ll say on that, however; it’s a subject that could cause much debate so I’ll let you decide if it bothers you or not.
Overall, Manitou Blood is still a cool and altogether original story, and I’m sure if you’re a fan of the rest of the series you’re going to check it out no matter what I say. I will tell you this though: it works just fine on it’s own, without any foreknowledge of the first two books, so don’t feel pressured to track them down first. Next time, I just hope Masterton can keep the pace a little more even for the length of the story, which I’m sure will help dramatically.
3 out of 5
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