Review: Bleed by Peter M Ball

Bleed by Peter M BallHaving experienced first-hand the tribulations of writing the second book in a series, I was a little nervous awaiting the sequel to Peter M Ball’s Horn. I sang Horn‘s praises in my old blog, for the way it smashed together two genres – faeries and hard boiled detective fiction – and made something new out of them. It’s a damned difficult book to describe without making the listener twitch and back off slowly, because unicorns, gritty crime drama, rape and resurrected PIs who are former lovers of the faerie queen are hard to encapsulate while crying out “SERIOUSLY, THIS IS A MOST EXCELLENT BOOK!” But seriously, it is.

So along comes the sequel, Bleed. Clearly, Peter M Ball hasn’t had this “difficult second novel” malarkey to deal with. Bleed is as bold, punchy, gritty and grotesque as Horn. While the subject matter is less shocking than in PI Miriam Aster’s first outing, those elements of hard boiled faerie fiction remain, as unforgiving as the first time.

Former cop Aster doesn’t have many friends, and even the ones she has don’t seem to like her very much. She doesn’t blame them. She has a messed up past, a problematic present and not much of a future. She spends her time, like any good detective of the genre, bitter and drunk. This time the damsel in distress is a former client, Safia, whose twin sister was kidnapped 7 years before. Aster walked away from that one, and the unfinished business has come back to haunt her. The story continues with all kinds of other unfinished business lurking dangerously in the shadows. There’s brutality, vengeance, rage and the sleaziest badass talking cat you’ve ever seen.

In a discussion with a friend about Horn, I found it interesting that I identify Miriam Aster as not only the heroine of this story, but also a “damsel in distress” all on her own account. For someone so self destructive and often unpleasant, I have a definite sympathy with her inability to forgive herself for her past. She’s not as irredeemable as she (or anyone else) thinks she is, and it’s one of the many reasons I am so involved with her story.

Other reasons include Peter M Ball’s excellent grasp of the genre in which he writes, his ability to walk the very fine line between pastiche and drama, and the cast of grubby, hard characters, both human and fey, that inhabit his world. He has delivered another fast-paced read, packed with action, character and pathos. I can’t wait for Claw, the third in the series due out by mid-2011.

Go to Twelfth Planet Press: pick up Bleed, and Horn if you don’t already have it. Then browse around and pick up some more of this small press’s excellent range of challenging, intriguing and innovative titles!

GaryView: The Last Vampire by Christopher Pike

Lissa: I hate cliffhanger endings.

Gary: I have the next one if you want it.

Lissa: God yes, please!

Gary: So you liked it?

Lissa: It was fun, and a nice change to the whole teen girl in love with a creepy older vampire guy thing.

Gary: Isn’t it still creepy when it’s a teenage boy in love with an older vampire woman?

Lissa: Yes it is. It’s just a reverse gender creepy. And there were some interesting elements to the vampire back story. The whole set-up about the origins of vampires in India, and the gods and demons and stuff.

Gary: That was kind of cool. I did wonder for a while if it might be… I don’t know. Accurate.

Lissa: You mean, where vampires really come from?

Gary: Yeah. I mean. Probably not. But some other stuff is really accurate.

Lissa: Like what?

Gary: Like… um…

Lissa: I’m pretty sure it’s not the suddenly awesome ninja skills, because you’ve always been very scornful of those on Buffy, and you don’t exactly crack a smooth samurai move yourself.

Gary: No, that’s still stupid.

Lissa: And I’m also figuring it’s not the “all vampires are multi billionaires” routine either, because I don’t know any fabulously wealthy vampires. I’m figuring the first time they lose it all in a financial crash, they have trouble developing the right skills to get back on the gravy train.

Gary: (sighs) Yeah. Best bet is to be financially conservative and hope you make a lucky investment before inflation eats your savings.

Lissa: So what’s so accurate?

Gary: The. Um.

Lissa: (frowning) Something’s really bothering you.

Gary: Yeah. Sorry. I shouldn’t have…

Lissa: It’s the stuff about turning, isn’t it?

Gary: Um. Yeah. Yes. That’s… fairly accurate. Mostly.

Lissa: Does it… really hurt that much?

Gary: Sort of. I mean. It hurts, and then it’s kind of… numb. You die. I died. I felt that. Felt it all going, and then you want to fight and it doesn’t feel like it’s going to… It’s… it’s very…

Lissa: … oh my god it sounds awful. Terrifying and awful.

Gary: Yeah. Um. I don’t think I want to talk about it after all.

Lissa: Why do you do this to yourself, Gary? Why do you read these books that remind you of all this stuff.

Gary: Because I’m still trying to understand it, and nobody’s written an actual manual. It’s all I’ve got.

Lissa: Is there anything I can do to help?

Gary: You do help. It’s okay.

Lissa: But…

Gary: Did you know that Christopher Pike is a character in Star Trek?

Lissa: (pauses a beat) You mean the guy in the new Star Trek film?

Gary: There was a Christopher Pike in the original series too.  The original original series. In the first pilot, he was the captain of the Enterprise. Then he showed up again in an episode of the actual series. Called The Menagerie.

Lissa: You know a lot about Star Trek.

Gary: Yeah. It was pretty cool. Even after I was dead.

Lissa: Bet you like Scotty best.

Gary: Yeah. And Geordie in Next Gen.

Lissa: You just like the engineers.

Gary: Sure. But Spock’s pretty cool too.

(Gary goes off into long explanations of the Vulcan home world and cultural habits. Lissa lets him.)

*For newcomers, the GaryView is a review of books/films/TV/entertainment carried out as a conversation between Lissa Wilson (librarian) and Gary Hooper (vampire) , characters from my book ‘The Opposite of Life’. Visit my website for more information.

Words are like oxygen

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