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Monday, April 19, 2010

“Blood Oath” by Christopher Farnsworth (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Christopher Farnsworth Website
Order “Blood OathHERE (US) + HERE (UK)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: A graduate from the College of Idaho, Christopher Farnsworth worked as an investigative and business reporter for several years before selling his first screenplay. His work has also appeared in the New Republic, Washington Monthly, the New York Post, and on E! Online. “Blood Oath” is his first novel.

PLOT SUMMARY: In 1867 a man accused of vampirism was tried for murder and sentenced to death. He was then pardoned by President Andrew Johnson, and died years later in an asylum for the criminally insane.

At least, that’s the cover story.

Meet Nathanial Cade: the President's vampire.

Cade's pardon came at a price. In return for his freedom Cade swore a blood oath to protect America and the Presidential line from their supernatural enemies. Now, over 140 years later, Cade still works for the President and his administration.

In “Blood Oath”, Cade is paired with a new liasion to the Oval Office, a cocky young political operator named Zach Barrows who has been assigned to be his new handler. While Zach struggles to understand Cade’s very existence and how to navigate a partnership with a blood-drinking immortal, he and Cade uncover a grisly plot to attack the United States with a gruesome new form of biological weapon. What they don’t realize is that they are about to find out that they have an even more serious opponent, a traitor who has access to the highest levels of power—the White House itself...

CLASSIFICATION:Blood Oath” marries political and techno thrills with the supernatural. It’s like 24 meets Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger novels meets Fringe meets Blade.

FORMAT/INFO:Blood Oath” is 400 pages long divided over sixty-nine numbered chapters and an Epilogue. Narration is in the third person via several characters, both good and bad, including Nathaniel Cade, Zach Barrows, the President of the United States, Tania, Dr. Johann Konrad Dippel, Helen Holt, etc. “Blood Oath” is self-contained, but is the first book in a new series that has been contracted for at least two more sequels.

May 18, 2010 marks the North American Hardcover publication of “Blood Oath” via Putnam Adult. The UK edition (see below) will be published July 18, 2010 via Hodder & Stoughton.

ANALYSIS: There’s a lot to like about Christopher Farnsworth’s debut novel, “Blood Oath”, but for me it all starts with the concept: a vampire oath-bound to serve and protect America and the presidential line against threats from the Other Side, which in this case includes everything from zombies and werewolves to demons, invisible men and aliens. Or as Agent Griffin so eloquently puts it:

There are worse things in this world than al-Qaeda and North Korea, Zach. And they are just waiting for their chance at us. Someone has to be there to hold the line. That’s what we do. We fight every incursion they make. They invade; we repel. Forget the War on Terror, Zach. This is the War on Horror. And you’ve just been drafted.”

What’s really cool about this idea is that it’s actually inspired by true events, at least according to Charles Hoy Fort who first wrote about President Andrew Johnson pardoning a vampire in his nonfiction book, “Wild Talents”, published in 1932. Whether based on fact or fiction, the concept is an interesting one and definitely makes for some entertaining reading...

Of course it helps that the book is well-written. In particular, the prose is crisp and accessible; the pacing is thrilling aided by short chapters and multiple point-of-views; the characters are likeable; and the story’s action and plot twists are skillfully executed. Granted, the dialogue and similes/metaphors are sometimes clichéd bordering on cheesy; none of the characters are particularly deep or complex in addition to being mostly stereotypical; and the story is full of recycled ideas; but because the book reads like a movie—and can be just as much fun as watching one—I was able to overlook such shortcomings.

As far as the actual story, Christopher Farnsworth does a nice job of mixing things up. Besides the main subplot involving an extreme Middle East terrorist group, Dr. Johann Konrad Dippel, and Frankenstein-like zombies, the author gives readers a glimpse at Nathaniel Cade’s storied past including how he became a vampire in 1867, the forging of his blood oath to President Andrew Johnson and future presidents, his history with Konrad Dippel, why he wasn’t able to prevent 9/11, and so on. Mr. Farnsworth also lays down a solid foundation for the rest of the series with a supporting cast that includes Zach Barrows, a love interest for Cade in the vampire Tania, Helen Holt, and Dr. Johann Konrad as well as introducing interesting conflicts like the Shadow Company and Cade’s refusal to drink human blood which is preventing him from reaching his full potential as a vampire. Additionally, I enjoyed the excerpts—from Cade’s Briefing Book, a transcript of a conversation with Richard M. Nixon, letters to Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson, news articles, et cetera—found at the beginning of most chapters which added further depth and texture to the novel.

CONCLUSION: Overall, I had a blast with Christopher Farnsworth’s debut novel, “Blood Oath”. Sure, the book is hardly thought-provoking or original, but then again, it’s not supposed to be. Instead, what the author has done is taken several familiar ideas like political thrillers and vampires, and combined them. The end result is an addictively fun and entertaining reading experience that has the potential to be very successful. At least I hope it’s successful because I can’t wait to join Nathaniel Cade for more adventures...

12 comments:

Richard R. said...

I swear, the glut of vampire books (and films) has made me swear off the entire sub-sub genre. I guess Buffy started all this, then the Meyers books fueled it, but I can't understand why this "trend" seems to have such legs.

Anonymous said...

I was really looking forward to this, hopefully I'll manage to find the book for good value somewhere.

Mariana said...

I would like to read this book.

Derrick said...

sounds like a complete American ripoff of the Hellsing manga/anime...

Robert said...

I hear you Richard. I've grown tired of vampires in fiction and movies over the years as well, but then something like Jasper Kent's "Twelve" comes along and reignites my interest in them. As for "Blood Oath", it doesn't reinvent the wheel, but offers a cracking good time :)

Anonymous and Mariana, hope you enjoy the book if you get a chance to read it...

Derrick, I haven't read or seen Hellsing, but I think it's nearly impossible anymore to come up with an idea that is truly original. Still, I have a feeling that "Blood Oath" is a bit different from Hellsing based on my experience with anime...

Anonymous said...

Hellsing is awesome. With that said, who cares if different series share similarities even in the plot elements themselves? I for one look forward to those since if I liked one, I should like the other. Not everything has to be creatively original to be a fun read.

I think people forget that first and foremost, these novels are meant to entertain. If you lose sight of that, your reading experience will be greatly diminished.

SQT said...

I just got done with this, and while I think you detailed the shortcomings well, I couldn't get as enthusiastic about it as you did. It just ended up too cliched and silly for me.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with SQT. I read the book and found it to be poorly plotted and filled with cliches and silly dialog. There's even a machine that sucks the life essences out of hapless victims -- I thought that old gag went out with Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Wastrel said...

I read this and found it entertaining. It's not horror literature, but the author pays his respects to Lovecraft and Poe. He also slyly references some forgotten authors of science fiction and fantasy stories, cryptozoology, hollow earth theories and other wacko ideas -- all part of the fun. 'Nathaniel Cade' is close to 'Nicholas Cage', and the vampire (at least in my imagination) looks like Nick Cage, making me wonder if Farnsworth wrote this book after seeing "Vampire's Kiss". The plot is escapism, as others have said. There are no real surprises.
The end is Hollywood shootout drama. The guy who was going to die, dies bravely, etc. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

You know, I just don't understand how peoples brains work(or rather don't work). You are tired of vampire books and movies? There are a few, But there are far, far more stupid cop movies. Why are people not whining about that? There are ten books and movies about cops, who all have the same absurd personalities, to every one book about vampires. By the way, they are even less realistic. Real cops do not act like wise asses, and don't try to upset people, generally. They are matter of fact and polite. So how about doctors? From medical examiners to emergency rooms, there are about twenty times as many doctor themed books and movies then vampire ones. Its even more silly because the presence of a vampire does not make something a vampire story. No more then the presence of a student makes it a school story.
People; Try to be less like sheep. Yes, a lot of people seem to enjoy bleeting that there are "too many vampire genre things". That doesn't mean you have to repeat what you hear. If you never particularly liked vampires, then just keep on reading what you like, and don't complain about things that don't concern you. Its not that you are tired of vampires- you were likely never interested in the first place. Just go watch a nice comdy about some family hijinx, or maybe a nice show about a fat American cartoon dad. There are only a hundred of those, they are so original!

Yasen said...

let see what the best word to describe this book?
"cliché", "boring", "weak"
pick your favorite one

Alejandra said...

I am from Peru and I really enjoyed this book. I mean, it's not the best book i've ever read or something, but it's great to just have a good time.
And, come on, it's always exciting to hear about presidents vampires...

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