Written by: Matt Molgaard
I think it’s important that I note my unfamiliarity with Mr. Masterton’s Manitou series. To my knowledge, the storyline is made up of five novels and a short story, and I’ve missed every single tale, other than Manitou Blood, which I picked up on a whim recently. I find it important to hammer this point home because, surprisingly, Manitou Blood works wonderfully as a standalone tale. It’s not a necessity to have read the previous books in the series: you’ll find yourself sucked right into a solid tale with no prior knowledge of these characters or their frightening past plights.
The story itself really doesn’t stray all too far from typical vampire mythology, but it does accomplish the introduction of some ideas that are rarely, and in some cases never touched upon. In a sense, Masterton is stylizing the vampire in ways no other contemporary author has managed. Purists however have little reason to fear, as Graham does stick to the erotic elements that travel a parallel course to the vampire mythos, and there’s plenty of bloodshed to take in here.
The story pits Harry Erskine, who from what I gather is a frequently explored character and a staple of the Manitou series, as well as a small group of New York survivors against an increasing population of blood suckers. It takes little time for New York City’s streets to be overrun by carnage, pale people, full blown vampires and military. The problem is, Harry and his small troupe of buddies (Frank is a physician, infected with the nasty virus after a hazy sexual exchange with an attractive member of the undead, Gil is a bad ass soldier who takes no prisoners and holds no qualms with risking his life, and Jenica, like Harry, dabbles in what you might call witchcraft) are the only citizens who seem to know what the hell is going on and how to stop it.
Romanian folklore is well traveled here, and it ultimately provides this band of fighters the knowledge needed to put the primary villain down for good. By the way, our head honcho nemesis isn’t exactly a vampire, but a vampire gatherer; one who controls the undead. But there’s a twist in store for readers, as this gatherer, known as Vasile Lup isn’t even in control of the situation, this beast is basically the puppet to an even stronger force, far more vile. I won’t speak on who or what that is, as it would certainly steal away a sizeable chunk of the shock we’re treated to in the latter pages of the novel. I will say this however, there’s a direct connection between someone in this group and the ultimate culprit, and it’s a bit of a heart breaking link, as evil must be destroyed, and that bears consequences.
Masterton’s writing style is pretty damn entertaining, I must say. I’m constantly on the prowl for quality authors, and Graham fits the bill. He’s clearly an intelligent gent with a knack for storytelling, but he doesn’t decorate his story with intricacies that would challenge a technical genius, and he keeps his characters and ideas very relatable. I cherish the fact that the man doesn’t find it necessary to divulge every last minute detail either. Sometimes an insanely descriptive story is exactly what I seek, but I’ve found that even some of the best authors in the business tend to take details about fifty steps too far (cough, cough, Stephen King – who I admire like few others, but let’s be real, he overdoes it on a regular basis and it sometimes makes for a drawn out, annoying read). No, Graham Masterton tells the tale, and lets it breathe at a natural rate. It’s a value I respect, and it’s a value that, in my opinion, is very welcoming to new discoverers. I myself enjoyed Manitou Blood thoroughly, and I can say with certainty that I’ll purchase more works from this man in the future.
Vampire freaks, check this one out. It moves quickly, it’s graphic when it should be, and vague when graphic depiction isn’t necessary. You’ll get your fix of gaping neck wounds and eroticism, and while the story doesn’t conclude on a thoroughly bleak note, it sure as hell isn’t the picturesque climax often delivered.