Sunday, January 06, 2013

Quickie Book Review: Children of the Night

by Dan Simmons

Dr. Kate Neuman spends most of her time trying to help the children struggling to survive in orphanages scattered throughout post-Communist Romania. Unwashed, unfed, crammed into rooms like sardines, almost no medical attention -- Kate has just about reached her limit of the abhorrent conditions until she discovers one particular child who, against all odds, begins to flourish in the wake of a botched blood transfusion. Examining the child using what limited tools she can find, she realizes that the child's immune system may hold the key to curing other disease, but without the proper equipment, she won't know for sure. With the help of Father Michael O'Rourke and a local medical student named Lucian, she adopts the boy and manages to sneak him out of Romania and brings him home with her to Colorado where she can run more tests at her lab in the CDC.

News of the child's flight doesn't go over well with billionaire Vernon Deacon Trent. Trent comes from a very old lineage, dating back to the 15th Century and that has lived in the are surrounding Transylvania. But back then, Trent was known by a far more sinister name: Vlad Dracul (a.k.a., Vlad the Impaler). Trent recently arrived in Romania to live out his remaining days and to name a new Prince to take his place as head of the family. That new Prince is to be Kate's child, so the family tracks Kate to Colorado and abducts him, destroying her home and believing her to be dead.

With the help of Father O'Rourke, Kate returns to Romania, determined to find her son and those responsible for the death of her friends, and to bring her son back to the U.S.

Author Dan Simmons takes the mythos of vampires and attacks it from a wholly different angle in Children of the Night: what if the need for blood turns out to be a genetic defect, affecting a particular family or families that live in the same geographic region? Those affected still require blood in order to prevent dying due to the defect, but rather than neck-biting and morphing into bats, others ways were found to bring flesh blood. That throws a new light on Vlad the Impaler's reign of terror. Simmons also mixed that history with the political atmosphere in Romania after Ceausescu, painting a dark picture of the inner workings and manipulations of the government as well as the countryside itself.

But the book also presents a fast-paced adventure story of a woman who finds herself well out of her element and determined to do whatever it takes to find her son and to bring him home. Kate turns out to be even stronger than she thought possible, and watching her focus on her son and battle against an entire family of vampires is quite exhilarating.

A fantastic book to read, and I think even die-hard vampire fans will like the different take on the mythos.

Children of the Night
by Dan Simmons
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Griffin
trade paperback, 433 pgs

received book from publisher

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