World on Blood, The

The World on Blood
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 1-Jan-1996

A version of the following review will appear in The Vampire's Crypt 14 (Fall 1996).

Jonathan Nasaw. The World on Blood. New York: Dutton, 1996; $22.95; ISBN 0-525-94066-9.

In Nasaw's book, the blood-drinkers are not "real" vampires: Neither dead/undead nor a separate species, they are a tiny percentage of the human population. Blood-drinking gives them a natural high and bestows characteristics associated with vampires in popular culture: exceptional strength and speed, super-sharp senses, enhanced sexual pleasure and prowess. The downside: It also gives sensitivity to daylight, the risk of "going werewolf" on a bad trip... and it's very, very addictive. The crash after a blood high has led some "vampires" to swear off and form V.A., Vampires Anonymous, a very hush-hush twelve-step program. If you're a "vampire," you don't find them; they find you.

So Lourdes (pronounced *Loor*-diss) Perez learns when she is shanghaied from a blood bank vault to a V.A. meeting, where she asks, "What if I don't want to... *recover*?" Group leader Nick Santos assures her, "Of course you want to. You just don't know it yet -- you can't know it until you're detoxed." The future looks bleak indeed for this unwilling twelve-stepper until V.A. treasurer James Whistler (no, not the artist) catches up with her after the meeting. What does he want? "Blood," he says, glancing significantly at the stash in her purse (V.A. let her keep it to taper off with); "Only blood, and a beautiful woman to drink with." Whistler -- as his friends call him -- was pressed into V.A. even more forcibly than Lourdes, and he has tired of the act that he puts on for the group; with the aid of the right companion, he can bring V.A. crashing down. Under the circumstances, Lourdes is more than willing to cooperate in hatching a plan. Whistler's allies include not only Lourdes but Selene, a practicing witch (wiccan) who has her own reasons for wanting to see Nick Santos undone; and from the island of Santa Luz, a whole vampire culture that Whistler's bottomless bank account can use as he reintroduces V.A. members, one by one, to the pleasures of the world on blood.

Nick Santos's side of the story keeps this novel from being a simple-minded tale of the puritanical V.A. getting its comeuppance for oppressing harmless, fun-loving vampires. Reverend Betty Beth Shoemaker of the Church of the Higher Power, V.A.'s latest meeting site, has decided to have a baby, and she wants Nick to be the father. (Via artificial insemination, with no further commitments.) When Nick acquiesces, he doesn't know that the plot against V.A. will bring his own dark past between him and the woman bearing his child. Nick's memoirs of the world he saw on blood show how he came to champion V.A. Combined with his present-day problems, they make him the human face and voice of the opposition -- not just a meddler who needs to be put out of the way.

Another thing that keeps The World on Blood from being a diatribe is that it's *funny* -- a funny, sexy novel. Whistler's plot and Whistler himself make for a lot of the fun, but maybe there's something to Rev. Shoemaker's observation that the funny bone is one of the most powerful erogenous zones. (For a good time -- I mean, laugh -- check out Nick's brief stint as a sperm donor.) Most of the novel's humor, however, is not sex-driven. The World on Blood is *witty*, written with a delightful and offhanded urbanity. Its social satire is an integral part of the book, not just an excuse for writing about vampires, orgies, and alternative family structures. If you've ever thought there's something cult-like about twelve-step programs; if you've ever wanted to see a culture where vampirism (blood-drinking) was an accepted practice; or if you just want a light-hearted dose of darkness-tinged suspense; look for The World on Blood.

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From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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