Worth Their Weight in Blood by Carole Jahme
Set in a small town in 1990, Scarlet Fox is a twenty something, disillusioned, unemployed single mother. A troubled boy arrives and attempts to befriend her. The burnt remains of a family are found at a circle of Neolithic standing stones. Scarlet becomes haunted and obsessed by their memory.
Scarlet gets a night job at the new blood diseases laboratory and is pleased to study the lab’s chimpanzee. She becomes intimately involved with a colleague. But when events take over Scarlet is horrified to discover there are both virtuous and diabolical vampires in town. She is confronted with the choice of becoming a vampire or dying. But she is unprepared for the traumatic loss she suffers in making the life-changing step.
There is another death and the police become suspicious of Scarlet. Love is the only virtue not covered by the virtuous vampires, which allows the vice of envy to establish itself. The troubled boy and a rogue vampire reveal their destructive nature. On the night of the Harvest Festival a jealous drunken rabble, attack the laboratory.
Over the years I have read a lot of horror, absolutely loads of the stuff. In fact, if you put a gun to my head I would probably concede that horror is my favourite genre. When you read large quantities of any genre I think that there is a tendency to become a little jaded after a while. I’ve mentioned in the past that when it comes specifically to vampire fiction that for me there needs to be a hook. There has to be some unique selling point that is going to pique my interest. Carol Jahme has managed to achieve that in this novel using the premise of vampirism through evolution, it’s an intriguing concept. Imagine a world where vampires exist as an off shot of human development. They have co-existed with humans, but always kept themselves hidden, existing on the periphery of human society.
The majority of the story takes place in and around the small town of Radfield and this does give events quite an intimate feel. There is a genuine sense that this is a close-knit community and everyone knows everyone else business. Jahme takes time to detail some of the petty squabbles and local history and this makes everything feel that little bit more realistic.
Everything builds to the novel’s bloody finale and the action takes over from the scientific discussion and exploration at this point. It was nice to finally see the vampires of the blood research centre face-off against the townsfolk. There are casualties on both sides and I think it’s fair to say that no one is left unscathed by events.
Overall I enjoyed Worth Their Weight in Blood, but I’ll admit that, at times, I felt there was perhaps a little bit too much exposition for my taste. Some of the science was beyond me and I’m not sure how much it helped drive the narrative forward. I felt a little bogged down on occasion as I tried to understand a point that a character had just attempted to explain. That said, there is much that I did connect with and Scarlet’s journey was certainly interesting enough to capture my attention. There is also some fun characterization. Helios and Roman, the two rogue vampires, are a great inclusion and this ensured I stuck with the story until the end. I would happily recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys his or her horror with a scientific edge.
Worth Their Weight in Blood is published by Mira Publishing and is available now in both paperback and ebooks format.
This extraordinary novel fuses Darwinian science fiction, Gothic horror and small-town low-life. It is a surreal, futuristic nightmare about the attempt of a young single mother to escape from the squalor of the actual into a "utopian" (but actually dystopian) world ruled by vampires. The unique and satirical use of cutting edge biological theory launches the reader into a hilarious and disturbing fantasy world.