Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Book Review: Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines by D.L. Snell

D.L. Snell has burst onto the horror fiction scene with his debut novel, Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines, a wholeheartedly original and more brutal approach to both the vampire and zombie subgenres. Snell creates a post-apocalyptic world run by ruthless vampires who are slowly overrun by Lovecraftian zombies. The only humans that remain are used for the vampires’ food or for breeding. The breeders are lobotomized and amputated, slobbering sex machines that exist as nothing more than a means to give the vamps more bodies of full of tasty and life-nourishing blood. Only a handful of “whole” human survivors remain, and they are locked away tight as the vamps only, and quickly diminishing, supply of food.

Shade, the last monarch of the vampire kingdom, rules the Haven, an apartment complex where the vampires live. The Haven has been walled off from the zombies and barricaded with cars, barbed wire and other large pieces of debris. Somehow, the zombies are getting smarter and faster. They are controlled by the Puppeteer, a black, oily parasite that latches onto their brains and reanimates them. Now, the Puppeteer is quickly evolving and the mutating zombies soon find a way into the Haven.

Shade wants to stay and defend her father’s kingdom, but her general, Frost, has other ideas. He plans on abandoning their home to go live on a faraway island where the vampires can hunt humans in wide open spaces like they once did. Meanwhile, Ann, a secret blood slave to one of the vampires, must try to save her sister, one of the lobotomized and amputated breeders, and also escape the vampires’ clutches.
Will the vampires save their kingdom and side with their queen, or will they take General Frost’s side once the zombies infiltrate the Haven? Is there any chance for Ann or the rest of the humans? What exactly are the zombies becoming?

I was first introduced to author D.L. Snell through Permuted Press’ fantastic The Undead: Zombie Anthology. His story, “Pale Moonlight,” intrigued me quite a bit and I actively sought out his debut novel, Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines. With this book Snell has blown me away, crafting a highly stylized story whose vivid descriptions remind me of a graphic novel without the pictures.

The action in Roses of Blood comes fast and furious, with the focus being on vampires. The zombies and remaining humans really are secondary characters here, with all the deceit, backstabbing, torture, viciousness and even loyalty between the vampires taking precedent. The characters of Shade and Frost are perfect comic book caricatures of the hero and the villain, but Snell develops each character so they don’t remain 2-dimensional. Both characters have their own mysterious pasts and both are brutal killers. Pretty soon, things go topsy-turvy and you’re not sure who the hero is or who the villain is. In the end though, the story belongs to Shade, who isn’t a princess in a fluffy dress who lounges on the throne all day. No, she’s a leather-clad caped crusader who won’t let her kingdom crumble without putting up one hell of a bloody fight.

Roses of Blood is a visceral, at times erotic, and always bloody book. The gore throughout really made me cringe time and time again. There are scenes of mayhem, torture and pain that really made me want to put the book down and say, “Wow, I just can’t handle it,” but Snell has created such an engrossing book that no matter how gruesome it became, I just couldn’t put it down. Barbwire does play a large part as is referenced in the title, and there are plentiful scenes of it ripping and tearing flesh from vampires, zombies and humans alike! The Puppeteer is also one vicious sumuvabitch, and the zombies here are unlike anything I’ve ever seen or read about! Their Cthulhu-like tentacles and quickly evolving intelligence sure did give me the heebie jeebies! The vampires are no frilly-frocked bunch either, and always come out guns and fangs ablazin’.

D.L. Snell’s prose is very poetic and uses many metaphors, hyperboles and comparisons. Don’t be mistaken, though. By “poetic” I don’t mean flowery love poems, but I mean some very brutal violence! My only complaint is that all the highly descriptive passages might rub some people the wrong way. Instead of just telling you what something looks like, Snell really shows you, which may be a bit abstract for some readers. Snell’s style is very creative, original but not straightforward. I found some of his descriptions a little clunky, but for the most part absolutely adored his unique writing style. This style is not something that is seen in the horror genre everyday and I found Snell’s unique voice very refreshing. Snell’s descriptions burst and bloom onto the pages…covered in grue, mind you! Don’t be put off by my “poetic” description. Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines is one of the most visceral and violent horror books I’ve read in quite a while.

For an exhilarating and eviscerating mash-up of vampires, zombies and the apocalypse, don’t hesitate to check out D.L. Snell’s colorful, violent and all together entertaining book, Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines.

Available on Amazon!

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