Redlaw: Red Eye by James Lovegrove
For once, I’m going to say something good about the blurb. The catch phrase, “A bad day in the Big Apple” is actually rather appropriate in the same way that the title, Redlaw: Red Eye by James Lovegrove (Solaris Books, 2012) reflects a pleasing ambiguity. Our hero, John Redlaw has just emerged from his flight to America feeling a little under the weather, the designation of the weaponised soldiers is Red Eye One, and the vampires have spooky eyes. So kudos for a little wit from the editorial staff and/or the author. Now the the book itself. This is a direct sequel to the first Redlaw and picks up with our hero enjoying real hero status, i.e. his reputation has been shredded and he’s being pursued by the forces of law with the same enthusiasm they bring to manhunts for terrorists and traitors. Fortunately with the newly promoted Captain Khalid in command, the opportunities for evasion and escape are always good. Except John Redlaw recognises he cannot continue in London. When a friendly vampire mentions a new urban myth about attacks in America, this seems a Heaven-sent hint he should investigate.
From the moment he arrives in New York, John Redlaw finds himself immersed in a completely different culture with vampires viewed ambivalently. Whereas the Brits mix fear, loathing and indifference in equal measures, the Americans have no formalised framework for accommodating their existing population of bloodsuckers and the new immigrants. For the most part, the two populations physically avoid each other and the humans hesitate to make a judgement on whether they are welcome. At this fairly critical stage, the remnants of the international cabal that Redlaw disrupted in Britain are looking for power and influence in America. As a byproduct of testing to find a cure for a blood disorder, they have developed what may become an effective way of producing supersoldiers. The first group of seven are being field-tested in a program to eradicate vampires in New York. Obviously the vampires are aware of this and a young and inexperienced Tina “Tick” Checkley has captured the enhanced seven on video as they returned from eradicating a nest. Before she can make herself a target by posting the video on YouTube, she meets Redlaw and they set out to discover who’s behind the attacks. While visiting Father Tchaikovsky, a vampire shtriga, Red Eye One attacks and Redlaw inherits a small group of vampire survivors to protect. For this ragtag group, it doesn’t matter their new leader is human. They are interested in survival and think Redlaw is their best chance.
This is a fairly remarkable piece of writing from a technical point of view. As a vehicle for carrying the story forward, James Lovegrove adopts the chase. This is one of the most difficult to get right at length. Most authors chicken out and have their heroes running for the length of a short story until either death catches up with them or they triumph against the odds. In this instance, our hero attracts the attention of the superseven at an early point and, recognising their professionalism as warriors and their physical improvement, he decides running away is better than standing to fight. In other hands, this would have grown tedious but there’s consistent inventiveness in the way Redlaw leads his no-hope band of vampires. Indeed, our hero’s capacity to absorb punishment is tested to the limit in this story as he grimly moves forward to the inevitable confrontation at the end. Except, of course, he gets to decide where to make the final stand. For those of you who know Sun Tzu’s Art of War, he fights on “hemmed-in ground” and so must rely on deception to see them through.
As with the first book, there’s a lean mean approach with stripped-down language and non-stop plot development. The result is a most pleasing blend of urban fantasy and straight horror as our human hero steps into the role of shtriga, leading this band of vampires into completely new territory for them. Redlaw: Red Eye is a delight and even though our hero is left in New York, I hope to see him again. I suspect moving on to Japan might be a little too much because of the language problem, but there’s plenty of scope for building on his most recent acquisition.
For a review of the first in the series by James Lovegrove, see Redlaw.
A copy of this book was sent to me for review.