Top positive review
An interesting premise on Vampires!
on 9 March 2017
I keep fluctuating between a score of either 4-or-5, because this is a tough cookie to rank accurately.
Children of the Night presents an interesting take on vampires (and to be honest it is one worthy of its own mythos). It also features an excellent introduction by Simmons himself, in which he recounts a visit to post-Ceauşescu Romania in search of the real Dracula (Vlad Tepes). During this same visit he comes to understand the true plight facing the Romanian people - and none are imperiled more so than the thousands of sickly and unwanted orphans filling untold numbers of hospital wards and orphanages.
It is the brutality of this life which Dan Simmons so expertly places onto the pages as he paints his story of a mother's fight to recover her stolen child.
Kate Neuman is a thirty-something immunologist working the grim halls of Bucharest's District One Hospital, and it is fair to say the grind is bringing her down. Kate 'cares' about every patient she encounters, but the corrupt and unsympathetic still hold sway in Romania, and the supplying of adequate medical resources is considered secondary to the needs of the Baroni and their immediate puppets.
Kate's work brings her into contact with a sickly infant, and by chance it is discovered that blood transfusions (even when given the wrong blood) reverse the child's crippling illness - at least in the short term.
Circumstances lead to Kate adopting the child, and then returning home to the United States with her 'new' son. At the CDC center in Boulder Colorado, it is discovered that baby Joshua has a mutant growth on the wall of his stomach, and it is this strange tumor that enables him to digest and flourish on blood. Further investigation shows that Joshua has a recessive gene illness, and it seems likely this flawed gene may be a familial trait. Joshua is not one of a kind.
Shortly after learning the bizarre nature of her son's illness, Kate is attacked and Joshua stolen away from her. And so, aided by some old friends (including Mike O'Rourke from Simmons' earlier Summer of Night) the hunt begins for her child's abductors. It is a journey that will pull Kate halfway across the world, leading her through ancient towns and cities towards a confrontation with a figure marked by history, a man who should not, cannot still be alive. A man who was once feared, but equally revered by his people. Even though they knew him to be strigio.
Dan Simmons is very literate, and so this is always a smooth read. The opening 2/3rds of the book is excellent, although anyone with an adversity to being bombarded with scientific facts may disagree. But the science didn't bother me. Neither did the overly descriptive prose identifying various routes through, and settlements of the beaten down Romania.
I can forgive such minor blips, because the book is interspersed with chapters titled Dreams of Blood And Iron, and these first person narratives are beautifully written accounts of historical violence. Well done, Mr. Simmons.
Unfortunately, one area in which the book does fall down is that D.S. paints the protagonists into such a tight spot that things have to get a little ridiculous. Yes, I know, militarized gangs of fangsters ruling over Eastern Europe is ridiculous - but there is ridiculous, and then there's ridiculous, ok?
Seriously, dis' bitch Neuman, she's more kick-ass than Bourne, Bond, and Bauer combined, stoked on amphetamines and tooled to the nines.
Even allowing for the slightly hooky ending, Children of the Night is a very good read about vampires. While presenting us with a genuinely fascinating scientific explanation for such creatures, it leaves more than enough meat on the bones to satisfy fang fans.
With tension filled scenes, and characters who are both flawed and believable, I'd say it is definitely worth picking up a copy of this novel.