Friday, October 9, 2009

That Which Bites

That Which Bites (softcover)
Author: Celis T. Rono
Publisher: VBW Publishing/$14.35
Date of Publication: 2009
Reviewed by James J. Gormley (member, National Book Critics Circle)

Celis T. Rono's own website describes the book's plot succinctly:

The Gray Armageddon has destroyed most of humanity. Vampires have slinked out of hiding, penning the few human survivors as blood cattle. Young Julia Poe survives the horror. She has dodged the undead since she was eight years old in downtown Los Angeles and has the only untapped vein in the new realm. Now she celebrates her 22nd birthday as a cattle rustler, fighting vampire factions and plotting revenge. Kaleb Sainvire, the master vampire and architect responsible for 'milking cattle,' is first on Poe’s list. That is, if she isn’t taken by his vampiric allure.

In this debut novel with echoes of the ultimate apocalyptic vampire classic, I Am Legend, Rono's fresh vision of a dystopian nightmare with fangs is character driven. Its central protagonist is a 5' 3" dynamo who has had to grow up hiding in the ruins of Los Angeles.

With no frames of reference to guide her, Poe has spent thousands of hours in an underground bunker alone watching old-school porn movies, practicing martial arts and preparing various vampire-unfriendly weapons involving bullets, garlic oil and holy water. Rono's Poe is a colorful, well-drawn, likable and fully fleshed out female badass who has a soft side, too, and who repeats this mantra when she's really in a pickle: "I am Bruce Lee's daughter, Muhammed Ali's niece and Xena's clone. I fear no one!"

Allied for years with a gun-toting nun named Sister Ann and a 6' 7" giant of a man named Goss, Poe, her friends and some cattle rustling contacts, spend most of their daylight hours helping imprisoned humans escape from blood bondage and vampire suckage.

After a bloody attack on her friends, Poe is rescued, somewhat against her will, by Sainvire. Although drawn to him, she is also repelled because he is said to have masterminded the whole human blood farm business to begin with.

Rono sure delivers an armageddon with characters involved in a fast-moving, suspenseful frightfest that is uniquely believable, characters who are, themselves, real and fallable, whose secrets (dark, heroic or otherwise) are revealed in ways which allow friendships and relationships to form, shatter and sometimes coalesce again with newfound respect or understanding.

When a council of vampire ancients gets involved and an undead war is at hand, what will Poe do? Whom will she trust? How will it all end?

You will definitely want to get a hold of That Which Bites and find out.

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