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Posts Tagged ‘san francisco’

Book Review: In The Blood by Miranda Luna

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

In The Blood is the first novel by Oregon-based author Miranda Luna: it’s been a while since I sat down to read horror fiction, much less horror fiction which takes the form of such a bloody love letter to the Goth subculture – and, with In The Blood, I was definitely pleased I’d taken a break from the film-watching.

The novel follows the fate of a novelist called Zoë Starr: existing both at the heart of the goth scene (as a popular writer) and on its periphery (as someone gradually pulling back from the world), Zoë is sinking into an oblivion of cheap-cut heroin and painful memories, despite the best efforts of those left around her who still care. She remains fixed in the here-and-now for one real reason – the welfare of her adopted daughter, Spider – but this, too, is problematic, and Spider obviously nurses a cool disregard for the ‘care’ she gets from her aunt.

But, for all the chaos and unhappiness, Zoë still thrives on her imaginative life – and finds herself more and more drawn to her old life in New Orleans, with her former love, Paris. They parted ways twelve years before, but Paris seems to be in the ascendant again – not just in her thoughts and dreams, though. He’s back in town, and this time he wants to see to it that their paths stay inextricably linked…

This is a novel which screams insider knowledge of the late 90s goth scene, particularly on its darker fringes – fetish, bloodplay, and so on. Scarred skin and bloodletting are constants here, and graphic depictions of self-harm and drug use are at the core of an understanding of the lead character – which may not be for every reader, though this seems born out of a genuine attachment to the subject at hand, rather than any wish to alienate. The novel is also very firmly-rooted in specifics of place, namely San Francisco and New Orleans. In fact, I think a few less markers – less specific mentions of subculture-specific bands, magazines, teeshirts, and so on – would have sufficed, because one of the strengths of the novel is that it feels like it belongs to its setting very early on. That said, in terms of the lead characters – Zoë especially – it was very easy to visualise them, and some of this is down to strongly-described appearances and mannerisms, as well as their internal worlds.

I also found it very easy to empathise with Zoë, because of that nicely-drawn internal dialogue. Even when her behaviour is damaging or desperate, it is possible to understand her motivations and accept her on her own terms. Luna also has a talent for depicting dream states and unreality in a convincing manner, and this is fundamental in making the plot hang together. There is also, as you might expect in a book themed around blood, flesh and lost loves, a fair amount of sex depicted – and mostly, these descriptions work (though not invariably; good sex is difficult to write and some of the descriptive terms start to trip over each other a little awkwardly in some parts of the story).

As for the ending – I wouldn’t spoiler anything, but I did wonder if it was left open to a degree…it would certainly be interesting to revisit these characters in future, or if not, an ambiguous close to the story fits in with the rather shadowy types of lives led by our protagonists.

So, some minor issues don’t prevent In The Blood from being an absorbing and heady story, with solid, interesting characterisation and evidence of a real love & knowledge of the realms wherein these characters dwell.

To buy a copy of the book, click here (