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Dark Blood by John Meaney

01/09/2009. Contributed by Pauline Morgan

Buy Dark Blood in the USA - or Buy Dark Blood in the UK

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pub: Gollancz. 344 page enlarged paperback. Price: 12.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-0-575-07961-8. 344 page enlarged paperback. Price: 7.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-0-575-08415-5.

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Fashions change. Not just in the clothes we wear, the food we eat or the diets we follow but also in the books we read. Westerns are out, chick-lit is in, crime never goes away. Once, publishers had problems if a book or even an author strayed out of genre. When David Gemmel wanted to write a straight historical novel he was told it would be treated as a debut novel and be paid accordingly. He put a fantasy element into it.

Others have been told that if they want to write in another genre they will have to use a pseudonym. These days, it gets even more complicated as many writers, including mainstream ones, are not just genre-hopping, but combining them in one novel. What used to be a no-no is now okay. Then, occasionally, there appears a book that seems to combine everything - Science Fiction, fantasy, supernatural, crime thriller and romance. 'Bone Song' by John Meaney broke all the rules.

'Dark Blood' is a direct sequel to the excellent 'Bone Song'. In the latter, police officer Donal Riordan has discovered that he had been set up to fail in the protection task he had been given. At the end, both Donal and Laura Steele, his boss and lover, are killed but for Donal, death is not permanent. Laura was a zombie and now he has her heart keeping him functioning.

Donal's is a strange world where sorcery is apparent and spells are a useful tool in everyday life. It is a world with all the technological trappings of our own, such as cars, guns, telephones and all the other necessities of modern civilisation. The system, though, is powered by the residual energy in bones of the dead, processed in huge vats. At least that is better than the system in Illuria, a country across the sea, where living children are tapped for their energy.

Back at work after his recovery but still grieving for Laura, Donal finds her department leaderless but determined to solve some of the outstanding issues from previous events. They know that there are strange things going on but lack the authority to tackle them head-on. Tangled with the desire to catch those that escaped after the debacle that cost Laura her existence are a plot to subvert the citizens of Tristopolis via ensorcelled phone lines and politics.

The rise of the Unity Party after a massacre at the Town Hall, which zombies are framed for, leads to an intent to legislate against non-humans and cast them out of society. This will include Donal and some of his colleagues. They take it on themselves to hunt down the black mage behind the Unity Party in an attempt to restore the equilibrium.

Complex and fast-paced, Meaney paints a believable society populated with unforgettable characters. Is this Science Fiction? Who cares? It is a thoroughly enjoyable, though dark, romp through an alien world populated by humans and supernatural entities.

Pauline Morgan

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