Wednesday, 24 August 2011

‘Redlaw’ – James Lovegrove (Solaris)

I love reading about vampires and I love watching them on TV too; I just hate it when they sparkle… I’m all about vampires that are only thinking about where their next meal of human blood is coming from and vampires that take time to look cool but are still packing serious firepower under that long black overcoat (can you tell that I love the film ‘Blade’?) Vampires that know what they’re really about in other words; vampires that will tear the throat out of the heroine before it even occurs to them that they could get to know the girl a little better…

None of this is much good though if you haven’t got someone who’s ready to stand up and take the vampire(s) on. Again, I’m thinking of the kind of person who would rather kill a vampire than spend interminable hours discussing the angst of their eternal existence. The more ammunition unloaded the better of course, that goes without saying :o)
I wasn’t mad keen on James Lovegrove’s ‘Age of Odin’ but there was more than enough there for me to know that his take on vampires would be worth checking out in terms of the kind of vampires that I like. It turns out that my suspicions were well founded, ‘Redlaw’ is a hell of a read in all the right ways.

Vampires, the ‘Sunless’, live among us but that’s ok, the Sunless Housing and Disclosure Executive (SHADE) work constantly to ensure that vampires stay put in their assigned districts and that the constant simmering of resentment from both sides doesn’t escalate into something far worse. Captain John Redlaw is the top SHADE officer in London for very good reason, commanding fear and respect in equal measure with his devotion to duty. Humans must be protected from vampires but the same applies in reverse.
Things might be getting too much though, even for Redlaw. His inner struggles reflect increasing unrest on the streets as vampires riot in their ghettos and humans respond in kind. There’s a mystery hidden amongst the violence and one that Redlaw must solve quickly. The vampire’s baser instincts are being manipulated for financial gain but the final solution goes beyond mere profit.

Like I said, ‘Age of Odin’ didn’t quite hit the spot but this latest book of James Lovegrove’s sounded like it would be just my kind of thing. I wasn’t wrong in my assumption but I never expected ‘Redlaw’ to grab me the way it did. We’re talking about a book where I gave the first few pages a go and suddenly found it had usurped my other reads and was nestled comfortably in my bag for the commute to work. ‘Redlaw’ didn’t take long to polish off either. The book weighs in at a slender looking three hundred and nineteen pages but that wasn’t what made it fly by so quickly and so smoothly.

‘Redlaw’ is a big ‘blockbuster’ film in book form. There are threats on all sides and the only man who can save us is the kind of guy who will take an absolute kicking every chapter and still be on his feet by the end of the final chapter. We’ve all seen films like that haven’t we? ;o) They’re great fun to watch and ‘Redlaw’ hits those same targets with ease.

Having said that though, the problem with blockbuster films is that they all follow a certain formula and ‘Redlaw’ is no different in this respect. Without giving too much away, once you know who is playing which role then you can tell what is going to happen to them at certain points in the book. I could actually make accurate predictions at least nine times out of ten…
Now ‘Redlaw’ does make up for this, and in some style, by powering through the plot in a hail of vampires and bullets but the fact is that I knew how it was going to end and who the villain in the shadows really was. Knowing this did take some of the punch out of the final chapters although, to be fair, Lovegrove does regain some of the impact with a revelation that is hinted at but you probably won’t notice in the midst of everything else that’s going on.

And there’s plenty happening here. The action doesn’t let up for a second but it’s clear that Lovegrove has his hands firmly on the reins of the plot. No matter how intense the fight or how manic the car chase, Love grove never lets things get away from him. Everything happens for a very good reason and it all ties together perfectly for the big climax.

What I really enjoyed though was Lovegrove’s take on just what a vampire infested London could realistically look like given the fact that humans outnumber them to a very large degree. It makes sense that if vampires couldn’t be moved on then they would be re-homed and basically told to stay where they were if they knew what was good for them. That’s what happens here and London is just the grimy and dark kind of city that makes for an ideal backdrop for things to play out against.
This approach to the vampire issue also gives Lovegrove the opportunity to ask questions about the ethics of this treatment in lots of small ways as well as bigger instances which directly affect the plot. For all it’s action and violence, ‘Redlaw’ is a surprisingly thoughtful novel about how we treat minorities.

John Redlaw himself is the ideal character to bring these questions to light on the page as he is constantly asking himself if he is doing the right thing by both groups of people that he is sworn to protect. Redlaw is more than capable of using his fists when he has to but this thoughtful air of his gives the character a welcoming depth that makes you want to find out more about him. There is room to develop Redlaw further and I really hope that this happens in another book.

‘Redlaw’ may be a little too predictable at the end of the day but it’s still a lot of fun to read and gives you pause for thought at the same time. I really hope this is the start of the series and not a one off.

Nine and a Quarter out of Ten


tmastgrave said...

If I remember correctly, I picked up 'The Strain' because of a review on this site, and I loved it. So, that said, I think I'll give this one a try as well. You have good taste in vampire novels.

Nick Sharps said...

You should check out Lovegrove's "Age of Zeus," I had trouble with "Odin" too but "Zeus" is a hell of a good read.

Nic said...

"Age of Zeus" was really great, as was "Age of Ra".
After reading Graemes Review I allready ordered "Redlaw".

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to Richard Morgan's The Cold Commands. That's it.

Linda P