“Bloodlines” by Peter Hartog: An SPSFC Review

I’m a judge for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC), and I’m reading and reviewing a bunch of books besides the semi-finalists and finalists! Check out my SPSFC 2021 Hub for all my posts and reviews for the contest.

Bloodlines by Peter Hartog

I saw copies of Bloodlines on multiple bookshelves in booktube-type videos or pictures of favorite books on a shelf and felt a distinct sense of FOMO. While the book wasn’t in my group’s reading, I threw it on my list of books to read because I wanted to be sure I got around to it. I’m glad I did. Bloodlines merges genres deftly, borrowing inspirations from Blade Runner and Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” while carving out its own space in a somewhat crowded cyberpunk field.

Bloodlines follows Tom “Doc” Holliday (love the Wild West reference) as he gets a chance to be part of a secret detective unit dealing with crimes that appear to be impossible based on mundane reality. It quickly appears the first murder he needs to solve may have been from a vampire. But these vampires and the setting of the book push the boundaries of science fiction and fantasy, meshing them together in some surprising ways.

There are a good number of characters here, and the chase to find a mysterious killer gets more exciting as the novel goes on. While there possibly are a few twists and turns too many–the novel could have used a bit of thinning down–the story remains satisfying and has enough action to sustain the reader throughout. Characters are interesting, and while many only get a surface-level outline, others grow and develop throughout the story.

I realized at one point deep into the novel that I genuinely had little idea of “Whodunit.” It wasn’t that the novel wasn’t well written enough to give hints; instead, it’s well written enough to conceal the big reveals quite well–basically until Hartog is ready for the reader to know. It makes the mystery that much more satisfying and certainly delivers a solid ending.

The setting is done well, with a kind of inter-dimensionality setting up the possibility of seemingly magical creatures showing up in our own reality. This leads to, among other things, the possibility for near-humans from alternate timelines and realities to show up–one of whom ends up as a kind of partner for Holliday. I quite enjoyed the worldbuilding, even though it is admittedly a bit hand-wavey about some of the details. You aren’t reading this book for comprehensive scientific accuracy, though, you’re reading it for fun; and Hartog provides fun in droves.

Bloodlines is a great read that fans of the inspirations and subgenres it emulates should go run and grab as soon as possible. I found it to be a fun read, and I’ll definitely be grabbing the next book in the series. Recommended.

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The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

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