Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hemovore (e-book) by Jordan Castillo Price

Hemovore is published by Samhain Publishing and is included in their Vampires and Gay Alternate Worlds categories. For those of you who don't like e-books, you're in luck: this book is also available in paperback format. The paperback version is included in different categories: Urban Fantasy, GLBT, and Vampires.

If you don't count all the excerpts at the end, this e-book was 237 pages on my Nook. According to All Romance Ebooks, it's 82,276 words long.

Synopsis:

Mark has been in love with his boss, Jonathan, for years, but he's never had the guts to say anything because 1) he's not sure whether Jonathan is even attracted to men and 2) Jonathan is V-positive. V-positives can't eat normal food, don't age, need blood in order to survive, are allergic to sunlight, and lose weight so easily that they need to regularly drink pure fat (usually in the form of flavored oil smoothies) just to maintain a healthy weight. Unfortunately, the hemovore virus, which they are infected with, is highly contagious and has a significant chance of killing the newly-infected. V-positive bodily fluids of any sort are dangerous to V-negatives like Mark. And so he keeps his mouth shut about his feelings and does his best to sell Jonathan's paintings and keep him well-supplied with cat blood, the only blood Jonathan is both willing and able to stomach.

Both Mark and Jonathan are excited when someone shows interest in buying all of Jonathan's paintings. Unfortunately, things go badly, and suddenly they're both on the run from a murderous V-positive from Jonathan's past. With no access to their bank accounts, a dwindling supply of cash, and no cat blood, among lots of other problems, it doesn't look like they can stay hidden and safe for long.

Review:

Oh, I loved this book.

Jordan Castillo Price is one of those authors that makes me glad I bought an e-reader, because otherwise I doubt I would ever have read Hemovore or Among the Living, which I also enjoyed. At the same time, however, I found myself wishing that I had been reading Hemovore in paperback form rather than e-book form. There were several times I would have liked to have been able to flip back and forth between parts of the book in order to confirm certain world rules, and that would have been easier to do with a paperback.

I had a hard time figuring out, at first, whether Mark was just a paranoid germophobe, or whether all his precautions were justified. Even after it became clear that, yes, his precautions were justified, I still had trouble wrapping my brain around the way Hemovore's world worked. As contagious as the hemovore virus was (much more contagious than HIV), I wouldn't have been surprised at all if Mark managed to catch it from Jonathan while they were on the run. In fact, I couldn't really understand why the hemovore virus hadn't taken over the whole world already, since stage one was easy to mistake for normal illness and V-positives were already contagious at that point. In the U.S. at least, V-positives seemed to inspire both fear and fascination, and I couldn't quite get a picture in my head of how that would work.

None of my questions about the world were enough to get in the way of my enjoyment of this book, however. Mark's “voice” was appealing: snarky, quirky, and a little neurotic. If I hadn't long since abandoned marking favorite lines in my e-books (the controls on my e-reader are annoyingly clunky), I'd probably have marked up a good chunk of this book. An example of one of the lines I enjoyed so much: “Dear Lord. I'd become a celebrity in the goth-vampire freedom-fighter circuit.” (p. 98 on my Nook). I also loved the part where Jonathan forced himself to try one of the flavored oil shakes, for lack of any other food.

The only time I found myself wishing parts of the story had been told from Jonathan's perspective was after Jonathan finally revealed how he felt about Mark. It was such a bittersweet, heartbreaking moment, but I was still left feeling a little unsatisfied, wondering what it was about Mark that attracted Jonathan to him in the first place. Jonathan, as far as I can remember, never said. Still, I enjoyed how the setup, with Jonathan and Mark unable to touch each other with their bare skin, kept the sexual tension high and prevented sex scenes from taking over the book.

Although Jonathan and Mark spent a good chunk of the book running and hiding, it never felt monotonous. Things kept progressively getting worse for them. They had no blood and Jonathan was resistant to taking Mark's – in fact, he wasn't even sure he could keep Mark's blood down if he did drink it. They had cash, but not much. They needed antimicrobial gloves and gels in order to keep Mark from catching the virus from Jonathan, but all those things cost money. They needed to stay out of the sunlight, which limited their hiding and traveling options. The list of obstacles in their way went on and on, and I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how they would survive.

I'm still not sure whether I like the ending. I don't mind that it's happy, but I found it a little surreal that Mark went from being Jonathan's cat blood-procuring, painting-selling assistant to genius art critic. Even so, I loved the book as a whole, so much so that I'm considering getting a print copy in the event that my e-book file becomes unusable in the next few years. I tend to worry more about the longevity of my e-book collection than I do about my print collection, and this is one I don't think I'd want to lose.

[EDIT, several hours later: Yup, the paperback version is totally going on my next Amazon order. My crush on this book is pretty major. I keep stopping to re-reading favorite passages via calibre. I forgot to mention how adorable it is that Mark falls asleep listening to Hungarian language learning discs - Jonathan is Hungarian, by the way. The other bits I've been re-reading lately: Jonathan telling Mark how he feels, and - SLIGHT SPOILER, but it's not hard to guess it'll happen - Jonathan taking care of Mark as he enters stage two. I can't wait until I have a paper copy of the book and don't have to have my computer on in order to easily re-read my favorite bits.]

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Pushing Daisies (live action TV series) - Those who loved the "can't touch the one you love" aspect of Hemovore may want to try this.
  • Drawn Together (e-book) by Z.A. Maxfield - This is another one that's available as both an e-book and paperback, by the way. Those who'd like another book in which a crazy, dangerous person from one of the main characters' pasts tries to hunt them down might want to try this. Just a warning: there are no sci-fi/fantasy elements, and this is a "gay for you" book.
  • Fruits Basket (manga) by Natsuki Takaya; Fruits Basket (anime TV series) - This is maybe a stretch, but I can't pass up an opportunity to plug an anime/manga series. Those who particularly liked the limitations put on how Mark and Jonathan could display affection may want to try this series out. A lot of the main characters are cursed to turn into animals from the Chinese zodiac when they grow weak or are hugged by a member of the opposite sex. Touching chests counts as a hug, by the way. There's lots of relationship angst.
  • Somebody Killed His Editor (e-book) by Josh Lanyon - Those who'd like another m/m mystery/thriller might want to give this or another one of Lanyon's books a shot. For those who prefer print books, there's also a paperback version available.
  • I Am Legend (book) by Richard Matheson - Those who like the idea of vampirism being due to a virus might want to try this one out, although, let me warn you, this is in no way a romance. The main character is a human, possibly one of the last uninfected humans, trying to survive in a world where everyone else seems to have caught the virus.
  • Peeps (book) by Scott Westerfeld - Another one for those who like the idea of vampirism being caused by something more natural, rather than supernatural. In this case, vampires are the result of parasites. "Peeps" are parasite positives - the parasites cause peeps to hate sunlight and anything else they once loved, to bond with rats, and to crave blood. The main character of this book, Cal, is a carrier, not a full-blown peep. Unfortunately, the parasites make carriers incredibly horny, and carriers' bodily fluids can transfer the parasites to other hosts. Now that he knows he's a carrier, Cal's goal is to track down and capture all his former girlfriends. I have written about this book.

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