Though I’m sure to upset some authors and publishers who, understandably, want five-star reviews, I’ve my own definition of the five-star system.
*One Star: A crime against God and man.
*Two Stars: Poor, or otherwise not ready for publication.
*Three Stars: A solid work worth the money/read.
*Four Stars: A superior, award-worthy achievement.
*Five Stars: A standard setter, a work to stand the test of time, a work to be studied and read again and again….
Blood Fugue, by Joseph D’Lacey
Wonderful vampiric fun! A three-star winner, even if….
Now what in the hell is that supposed to mean? We’ll get to that later; for now, what’s “Blood Fugue” about?
Here’s the description from the back of the book:
Reclusive outdoorsman, Jimmy Kerrigan, finds himself battling a vampiric plague which threatens to destroy Hobson’s Valley, the isolated mountain community he calls home. When his family, friends and neighbors fall prey to the “Fugue,” Kerrigan is the only one who can save them and prevent the disease spreading beyond the remote town’s boundaries.
Kerrigan is challenged beyond his limits when an innocent family of outsiders hikes straight into a wilderness he is responsible for. Can he really save them and protect the town? Can he defeat the creature who has caused the Fugue to mutate? And, most crucially, when he learns the horrifying truth about his own infection, will he even have the strength to try?
At least for me. This description, along with the great cover (a fantastic job done by The Cover Factory), not to mention having read D’Lacey’s breakout novel “Meat,” had me hooked.
But did it deliver?
With “Blood Fugue,” the author brings a utilitarian, dark fantasy read, complete with its own mini-mythos.
I couldn’t be happier.
Eww! There’s that ugly line again. But what does it mean? Here, it means prejudice, bias, and ugly competition. And from all places, probably from the author’s other book–“Meat.”
I’m of the mind that when it comes to choosing particular authors, one of the things readers go for is “replication.” That’s to say, readers want to–with a particular author’s work–replicate whatever experience they’ve previously had. This is especially true within commercial or genre fiction. Read (and enjoy) an author’s legal thriller, then, of course, one wants to read and enjoy said author’s next legal thriller.
But sometimes it can bite.
Example: What if a reader were to take on King’s “The Stand,” then “Under the Dome,” then the Dark Tower series … and finally come to something like … hmm, “Gerald’s Game,” or “Delores Claiborne”?
Would that reader be happy? Moving from vast, sweeping, stories with enormous casts, down to something quite different, smaller in scope, and very intimate?
Maybe. Maybe not.
How about reading any number of Koontz books, dark works of suspense, and then taking on his very humorous novel “Tick Tock”?
Reading other reviews–negative ones–about “Blood Fugue,” I couldn’t help but wonder where the hate came from, and this is what I determined, that, indeed, some readers might’ve been looking for another “Meat,” and found themselves disappointed.
One criticism stated that “Blood Fugue” felt slapped together … stood full of underdeveloped characters. Is the charge true? Certainly was for that critic. And, yes, people are entitled to their genuine opinions. One cannot classify such things as right or wrong. The field is inherently subjective.
But know this, I reviewed D’Lacey’s novel “Meat,” and gave it a rare score of four-stars. It’s a tale I’ll never forget, a book that more than deserves that great plug from Stephen King, and every other accolade received. With “Blood Fugue,” I’ve scored the work with three stars, which means a work worth a reader’s time and money. But with only three stars compared to four, does that mean it’s a lesser work?
The answer’s a resounding NO.
Instead, “Blood Fugue” is a different work. A different story. To cite an analogy out of King’s “On Writing,” a different unearthed fossil. And in my view, a work to be proud of.
All writing is risk. All writing, all the time. Therefore, writers need to be brave, need to be dragonslayers, need to be willing to do something different. Need to give every a story its due, and to allow it its own glory, whether it’s a home run, or a well-played single.
With “Blood Fugue,” what I did receive was a novel where the pages turned, a story with little to no chaff, a suspenseful work with some genuinely creepy scenes, and with a wonderful re-invention of the venerable blood-sucker.
And with the work’s very-interesting-mythos, D’Lacey might’ve invented a world worth revisiting in the future. Were the author to do so, I’d love to be there to go on another ride.
In the meantime, I am happy to know there’s D’Lacey’s sophomore novel “The Garbage Man” to hit next.