Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dying Bites (The Bloodhound Files #1) by D.D. Barant

FBI profiler Jace Valchek is awoken in the middle of the night and told to grab her three most essential tools because she is being transferred to a new top secret division.  Jace does end up working for a new government agency but one in a parallel universe - a world in which vampires, lycanthropes and gollums make up the majority of the world's population.  Before Jace can return home, she is tasked with tracking and apprehending a human serial killer who is bent on changing the balance of power in the world, even if it means destroying it. 

Barant doesn't waste anytime diving into the story and the reader, along with Jace, must quickly learn the rules of the world he has created.  The problem is that as a guide, Jace would not have been my choice.  Jace plays the typical tough girl to hilt, verging into belligerent and rude more often than not.  Jace screams and throws tantrums making it hard to believe that she is an FBI profiler. At times, I found myself actively questioning her stability. There is also the issue that there is little connecting Jace to her former world.  Jace's parents are dead (big surprise there) and she has few close friends.

Jace is brought to the parallel world because the NSA is chasing down a serial killer they believe to be insane and since Lycanthropes and Vampires have immunity to such human frailties, they have no experience dealing with the mentally ill.  Here's the thing, given everything that the supernaturals have done to humans, it seems absolutely rational to me for humans to want to fight back.  In the alternate world history, humans were enslaved, treated like cattle and drained, imprisoned and dismembered.  It's worth keeping in mind that though lycnathropes and vampires have their immunities, they are longer lived, stronger and faster than the average human.  With the human population reduced to one million why wouldn't someone step forward?  

The antagonist plans to release an ancient God to fight against the lycanthropes and vampires.  This makes perfect sense to me because the vampires and lyncanthropes unleashed an ancient God on humans killing 6 million of them.  At any rate, Jace of course foils his plans but the limited exposure to the release of the God, still leaves the 150,000 of the affected supes with schizophrenia, irrational phobias,  and multiple personality disorder.  The implication is that they will be violent and difficult to deal with because this society has no experience with mental illness.  All in all the portrayal of mental illness in this book is terrible because to be mentally ill in Barant's world, is to be a violent killer capable of atrocity. 

Because Dying Bites takes place in an alternate world but parallel world Barant made some changes to world history unfortunately, most of the changes were either extremely problematic or simply didn't make any sense.  For instance, vampires, werewolves and humans battled for control of the earth and the supernaturals won.  Fine, I can accept that, what I cannot accept is fact that the world evolved in virtually the same way without human intervention.  Why is that?  Why did colonization take the exact same form across the globe?  When Barant does include real world events the appropriation is horrific.

We are told that the axis powers fought for racial purity in WWII.
Hitler declared that lycanthropes were being tainted by mongrel blood, introduced by humans deliberately to weaken the race.  Mussolini agreed with him, and the Emperor - a hemovore - saw it as an excuse to rid the islands of all lycanthropes  once and for all. Most camps were in Europe ... but not all.

"The strategy of purificationw as threefold.  First, all dogs were executed.  Second, lycanthropes of impure blood were rounded up and gassed.  And third, unenhanced humans were arrested and imprisoned, accused of participating in some vast ill-defined conspiracy.  To ensure their loyalty, they were turned against their will."
The holocaust is not something that should be played with at all.  It was a human horror and treating it so callously is beyond disrespectful to all those who died and were imprisoned.  It's a mockery.

Barant then went on to include the Spanish Flu which killed so many in 1919.  In his alternate universe, it was actually a virus released by vampires to allow them to procreate.  That I can get behind because the deaths were of natural causes but I certainly side-eyed that the death toll was 6 million.  Barant didn't randomly pick that number and the fact that these fictional victims were burned alive in crematoriums, certainly increased my distaste.  

Dying Bites wasn't completely erased, thus giving Barant the opportunity of playing with the identities of marginalized people.  Charlie, the gollum assigned to protect Jace informs her early on that the politically correct term for a gollum is a "Mineral American." Considering that Charlie is black in colour but not black as in African-American, the choice of terms is not amusing.  That said, there were a few Japanese characters, chief among them Tanaka, but they largely read like tropes.

Dying Bites alsosuffered from an immense amount of info dumping.  Heaven forbid that Barant show instead of tell.  Yes, I get that this world needs explanation for the reader but why is every character and expert on the parallel universe and able to tell how the differentiate between each world? 

As much as Jace got on my nerves with her habit of attacking first and asking questions later, I really liked her interactions with all of the characters.  I like that when she had a one night stand with Tanaka, that Jace was quick to put it aside and move on with the task at hand.  She had no problem letting him down gently.  There was no griping or internalized slut shaming.

Dying Bites has a lot of problems which I really hope that Barant rectifies in the next book because the world he has created has so much potential. I particularly loved Charlie the gollum. Many stories these days contain a large cast of supernatural creatures but few actually include gollums.  I like that Jace actively investigated each crime scene and followed where the evidence led.  Dying Bites has some good bones buried int the quagmire of appropriation and tough girl protagonist.  It's not a great book but enough to leave me hopeful.