Blood Riders by Michael P. Spradlin
Publisher: Harper Voyager/Sept. 25th, 2011
Kind thanks to Harper Voyager for providing a review copy
1880: “Some other time…for Caroline”, the creature with the fangs and long white hair hissed to Jonas Hollister as he lay amongst the dead soldiers in his command. The sun was rising, and Jonas was sure he was about to die, but those are the words the creature uttered to him just before he left the scene of the massacre. Earlier that evening, Captain Hollister and his soldiers came across a scene of devastation that looked like an Indian attack, but supplies such as food and other materials were left intact. That in and of itself put Hollister on alert, but the fact that some of the settler’s bodies didn’t seem to have fatal wounds, but were dead nonetheless, definitely sent off warning bells. When the supposed dead began rising and attacking his men, Hollister couldn’t believe his eyes. What he knows is that he should be dead, and by all accounts, he might as well be.
It’s now 4 years after the attacks that killed his men, and he’s been in Leavenworth since he was court martialed for dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer, and a few other trumped up charges. He was in Leavenworth so fast his head spun. No one believed his story of blood drinking creatures, and frankly, he didn’t blame them. Now he’s come to the attention of one of the most famous detectives in the world, Allen Pinkerton, who brings with him an offer he can’t refuse. A similar attack has occurred, and the lone survivor is a relative of a powerful political figure. Pinkerton wants Hollister’s help, and in return, he’ll be free from Leavenworth and paid a handsome sum. But will it be enough to risk his life? He’ll find out soon enough.
There’s a war waging among the Archaics, and a beautiful woman named Shaniah, and a madman called Malachi are at the center. Malachi is bitter and enraged after Shaniah was named leader of the Archaics, and Malachi has defied centuries of Archaic law by feeding on humans. Shaniah is sure that the fate of her people relies on staying hidden, yet Malachi insists on indulging his animal nature, endangering his entire race. Shaniah is not about to let him run wild, and is very intrigued by the brave Hollister, who may be her key to stopping Malachi.
After consulting with Dr.Van Helsing (yep, the very one), Hollister, Chee (who has some interesting abilities of his own), and Monkey Pete (conductor, weapons ace, and field medic) hop on a tricked out train bound for the west where they are to confront these monsters, and kill them. They eventually arrive in a town that seems to be full of life interrupted, but eerily devoid of people. Then the bodies start turning up. The gang eventually finds a group of women and children holed up in the jail and they know they must get them to safety, but how? Night is falling, and the creatures have them surrounded. Remind you of anything? It very much reminded me of 30 Days of Night, with the Old West replacing Barrow, Alaska, and for me, that’s a good thing! The not-quite-vamps are just as scary, and I like how the author twisted the vampire mythos just a bit in order to keep things interesting. Archaics are not vampires, but they do share a few characteristics, and fighting them involves similar techniques and weaponry. Especially fun is the gun designed for them by Oliver Winchester nicknamed the Ass-Kicker, and it does, indeed, kick ass. The author did a very nice job weaving some history in with his action, and the wild west/vampire combo is lots of fun. If you’re tired of the same stories that seem to be dragging down the vampire genre, no worries, you won’t find that with Blood Riders. Neat gadgetry, a twist on vampire myth, Wild West showdowns, and a very strong female lead round out this exciting adventure novel!