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Cherie Priest
Spectra, 361 pages

Cherie Priest
Cherie Priest was born in Tampa, Florida in 1975 (the same year that gave us Saturday Night Live and the The Rocky Horror Picture Show). In 2001, she graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with an M.A. in Rhetoric/Professional writing, and she also has a B.A. in English from Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, TN.

Cherie Priest Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Clementine
SF Site Review: Boneshaker
SF Site Review: Those Who Went Remain There Still

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Soyka

Well, this is fun.

I'm not much of a fan of the burgeoning vampire genre, which these days seems such the genre de jure that even a stake to the heart isn't going to kill. At least not as long as publishers see a market for soft core porn targeted to junior high school girls. Okay, Twilight notwithstanding, maybe there are other reasons for the popularity of vampire fiction, but they elude me. I never understood all the fuss about Anne Rice (even less so after she got religion), and while Charlene Harris is okay, I never felt compelled to read more than one of the Sookie Stackhouse series.

But I make an exception for Cherie Priest's Bloodshot, which, for my pound of garlic, is pretty funny stuff. And, because while I yawn at the notion of vampires, I am a sucker for hardboiled Sam Spade anti-heroes even though it has been done just as much to death. Priest's protagonist may be a vampire, but she's also one hard-assed heroine. Even if a bit neurotic. Therein lies the fatal attraction.

Raylene Pendle (aka Cheshire Red) is a vampire who pretty much keeps to herself, even avoiding her own kind, with a personal moral code that doesn't allow for killing humans to suck their blood unless, of course, there's a good reason. She's even such a softie that she harbors two homeless kids in a Seattle warehouse where she stores her stuff. Not just any kind of stuff, but stuff she has stolen. She is a professional thief for both pay and pleasure, and when you're undead, things start to collect after a few centuries.

Ian Stott, a fellow vampire, is a client, though Raylene's reasons for taking his case are tinged with the possibility of pleasure. Stott was a victim of a covert government program called "Project Bloodshot" that conducted biological experiments on kidnapped vampires. The particular experiment endured by Stott resulted in the loss of his eyesight, which can be quite inconvenient even over the length of a normal lifespan. While Stott escaped and Bloodshot subsequently was shut down, it's not as if the ACLU is going to sue for the medical records he hopes contains details that could possibly be used to reverse his condition. Which is where Raylene comes in.

The government may know about vampires in our midst, but the general public just watches television shows about them (conspiracy theorists and birthers take note, maybe this could be a campaign platform for the Donald: the government sucks because it doesn't want you to know about the people who suck your blood). Stott has managed to get information about the location of his files thanks to a Freedom of Information Act filing by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

  Ian continued, "The military has been deliberately tweaking the documents to indicate that the subjects were apes and chimpanzees…"

"So they pretended on paper that you were a chimp and inkered with your eyes, and the animal rights people got hold of the news, and they were incensed on your behalf. Or they would've been, if you'd been a monkey. Do they know you are not a monkey?"

"I hope not. I certainly don't intend to set them straight. It horrifies me enough that the government knows we're not a bedtime story; the last thing we need is for well-meaning hippies to declare us an endangered species."
p. 23


Now, it may be that Priest has some satirical points to make about governmental and societal treatment of classes of citizens still even these days treated as marginal, and vampires are meant to symbolize the poor, or the transgendered or any other groups of disenfranchised in this country in some way. But, it's sideshow to the "men in black noir" (did I just define a new genre?) action story. It would seem that some Project Bloodshot operatives have gone rogue and are continuing to pursue vampires. Raylene places herself in jeopardy both by breaking into a government facility to retrieve the secret program dossier Stott wants as well as by pretending to join a group of "urban explorers" actually run by the rogue operatives to scout the habitations of suspected vampires. Along the way she picks up a sidekick, a cross-dressing former Navy SEAL looking for information about his vampire sister, also a Bloodshot victim.

Along the way, of course, there are a number of close calls, chases and surprising turn of events. Not to mention the odd perspective of a female, slightly phobic, vampire.

  …Believe me when I tell you that I know how stupid this is, but people who've been dead a long time freak me out. Fresh corpses. No big thing. I've created more than a few of them in my time. But moldering old bodies, left in the ground to mulch themselves into dust? I shudder to consider it. And on those rare occasions when I traipse through graveyards (and believe me, they are rare) my obsessive compulsions become extra-ludicrous. I cannot bear the thought of walking over anybody's… well… body.

And, yes, you guessed it, there will be more adventures and, no doubt, more fresh dead bodies, vampiric or otherwise. Hellbent, described as the next installment of the Cheshire Red Reports series, is scheduled for release at the end of August 2011.

Having to wait until then is just going to suck.

Copyright © 2011 David Soyka

David Soyka is a former journalist and college teacher who writes the occasional short story and freelance article. He makes a living writing corporate marketing communications, which is a kind of fiction without the art.

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