In the Blood – Jackie French

2001, Harper Collins, 9780207197796

Jackie French is a very prolific Australian writer. In the Blood is the first in a trilogy which is intended for those a little older than her regular audience. While it is probably located in the Young Adult section in a bookstore it could just as easily be categorised as general sci-fi/fantasy. I actually choked on my coffee when on the first page, the word ‘penis’ cropped up!

The penis belongs to a Centaur, the first of many genetically modified creatures our heroine, Danielle Frost, encounters. She has been exiled from the City to one of the many outland Utopias, called ‘Faith, Hope and Charity’. Danielle was formerly one of a ‘forest’ of genetic experiments, who could link up to each other (like a psychic internet) and experience pleasure and belonging. Now, her friends are either vegetablised or converted, and she is just a lone ‘tree’. She has to deal with her new loneliness, but she is reluctant to associate with the PureHumans.

She makes friends with a Wombat, not a wombat (true animals are not capitalised, ones modified with human genes are). She tempts him with carrots and bread to keep her company. She meets Neil, a local of the Utopia, and his adoptive parents, authorities and medical experts of the community. She begins to wonder how she will pass the time in this new environment when a bloodied, dying girl is dumped on her doorstep. The girl cries that the blood has been sucked out of her – a Vampire? In this world of modifications after the world’s ‘decline’, this may indeed be plausible.

As Danielle has been blocked from ‘linking’ she must come out of her shell and get the city members involved. Neil accompanies her on a trip to the city to see her old forest-friend (and something more…) Michael. He reluctantly assists with the first evidence that leads them on a wild goose chase through some interesting outland communities, searching for the killer.

They encounter a freakish religious community at ‘Nearer to Heaven’ who only take in PureHumans, grow pot and have a ‘Brother Paederophile’ in their midst. The nearby ‘Black Stump’ is a hippie community whose numbers are all named after Shakespearean characters. They meet Dr. Meredith who treats them to a gourmet feast, and they end up in a semi-holographic castle with a twisted man in the body of a child and a ‘ModPlod’ with an erection.

Sound fun? It is! Of course, through all this, Neil and Danielle spend more and more time together. But will they find out who the Vampire is, if that’s what it is at all?

This book is so imaginative, you are constantly wondering how French came up with it all. She also manages to make her characters believable and strong. It is easy to relate to Danielle and experience her ups and downs, her desires and her displacements.

A very engaging journey of the imagination.

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