Blood Oranges

2312 - Caitlín R. KiernanThe author credits on this book are decidedly strange. As far as I can make out, what happened is this. Initially RoC wanted Caitlín Kiernan to adopt a new pen name for the Siobhan Quinn novels, I’m guessing because of the usual nonsense about lack of sales under the old name. Hence the Kathleen Tierney name was created. Then The Drowning Girl did rather well, and suddenly Caitlín R Kiernan became marketable again. Therefore, although this is Kathleen Tierney’s first book, it is being marketed as by “Caitlin R. Kiernan writing as Kathleen Tierney”, as if Tierney were an established pseudonym that has recently been outed. It is really quite bizarre, which is its own way is rather fitting.

Kathleen Tierney writes urban fantasy. Or rather, she is the voice of Siobhan Quinn, who is narrating her memoirs. Quinn, as Tierney notes in an epigraph, is not a very good writer. She’s not a very good urban fantasy heroine either. To start with, she’s undead, which is a bit limiting if you are supposed to be a fearless eradicator of vampire-kind. You could, I guess, start close to home, but then you would have a very short career.

To be fair, Quinn was once more the sort of heroine that you would expect. Well, apart from being a former street kid, prostitute and drug addict, that is. Those are not things that are typically on the resume. Unfortunately, by the time the book starts, she is not only a vampire, but a werewolf as well. In her line of business, this is very inconvenient.

It would help if Quinn actually liked being a vampire, but she doesn’t think much of them:

And, take it from me, vampires sure as hell don’t sparkle… or glitter… or twinkle… no matter what that silly Mormon twit may have written, no matter how many books she’s sold, and no matter how many celibate high school girls have signed themselves up for Team Edward.

There is an actual vampire hunter in the book: the preposterous Bobby Ng, a pizza deliverator for a run down parlor with a usefully profitable sideline in dope. Bobby fancies himself so much that he comes out with speeches like this:

“Wamphyri! You hear me? I know you hear me! I also know you’ve already feasted on the sanguine juices of some innocent soul this very night! And now I mean to put an end to your depredations, once and for all!”

All of the undead around Providence (you had guessed that the book was set there, hadn’t you?) treat him as a joke, and compete to tell the funniest Bobby Ng story. Quinn doesn’t think much of him either, especially as it is partly his fault that she is undead. Here’s how she reacts to the above oration.

Right about here, I was in danger of giggling so loudly he’d hear me. He actually fucking said “sanguine juices,” with dog as my witness. Oh, and later on I’d find out he’d snagged “wamphyri” from a series of books by some hack of an English writer whose name I can’t presently recall. Probably, that’s for the best.

Yes, of course it is Brian Lumley. Who did you think it was?

If you are beginning to think that Tierney, er, Kiernan is not taking this urban fantasy lark entirely seriously, you would be dead right. Quinn might not be a very good writer, but she has a nice line in deadpan humor. Because, you know, if you are both a vampire and a werewolf, you might as well laugh about the whole thing. It won’t kill you. Nothing much will. And it gives you something to do while interacting with mortals. Besides eating them, that is.

Did I tell you that werewolves are very messy eaters? Perhaps I should have done.

Which brings me to the other important point about this book. Kiernan, being a horror writer of some distinguished pedigree, is well aware of just how nasty supernatural creatures are. No sparkles, remember? And no fluffy puppy-dogs either. Quinn wants revenge on those responsible for her supernatural state, and no one, living or otherwise, is going to get in her way for long. Blood Oranges is red in tooth, in claw, and in just about everything else after the blood has stopped spurting. It spares nothing, especially not the reader.

If you have the stomach for it, you will find it absolutely delicious.

For more information about Caitlín R. Kiernan, see the SF Encyclopedia.

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