It’s tempting to start off with a trite rant about how defanged and bloodless vampire stories have become, but Blood Society isn’t really about vampires. I don’t just mean in the sense that we never truly know what protagonist Dragna and his ilk are; the monsters simply are not the focus. This is more of a traditional gangster story with the presence of vampires being used as a metaphor for the parasitic nature of the mafia. That’s where things get interesting.
Back in the early 1900’s, Attilio Augusta met a woman who turned him into something other than human: an immortal with the ability to transform into a hideous and ravenous beast. Unsure of what to do with his new unlife, he opts for following the family tradition of becoming a Mafioso. The rest of the book chronicles his life among Italian-American mobsters until his eventual reunion with the one who turned him and a run in with rivals like unto himself. Hijinks, blood and bodies ensue.
Dragna (Attilio’s immortal pseudonym) is no Don Corleone. He runs his organization with a firm fist and sheds whatever blood is needed, but spends quite a bit of time reflecting on how he feeds upon society and the destruction his parasitism helps to wreck. Consequences follow him around like a shadow, destroying everything that matters to him and he is never truly at peace with what he does. This internal conflict within a type of tale that is usually too morally simplistic is refreshing, to say the least.
Jeffery Thomas also does some amusing things with the vampire aspect. Right off the bat (yes, that pun was intentional), he is shown to be a violent and predatory and it is always nice to see vamps using their teeth for more than biting pillows during Mormon-friendly sex. At the same time, he toys with the traditional vamp tropes, warping them into a new being that may not even be vampire. Best of all, none of the characters are magically aware of what they are or all of the rules and reasons of their condition (I always hate it when characters “just know” damn near everything). They’re just kids trying to figure out who and what they are, knowing only that they seem to be immortal, drink blood, turn into a monstrous form and travel between alternate realities at will.
On a negative note, the cover art is a tad uninspired and bland. As much as we get told not to judge a book by its cover, it’s sad to see this from Necro, a company I can usually depend on for high quality presentation. More pressingly, Dragna’s journey has no real arc to it. ***warning: minor vague spoilers may be present*** The end seems to point to a redemption through sacrifice but I don’t quite buy it, Dragna never seems to change in any fundamental way. ***End possible alert*** That may very well be the point of the metaphor of the nature of the mafia, but it comes across as cheap and is unfulfilling.
Overall, Blood Society is an intriguing take on two overused genres that blurs them in a way that makes a statement while drenching us with blood. Can’t complain about that.
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at antoncancre.blogspot.com. No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.