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Overall, Redlaw by James Lovegrove is well written and entertaining.  If you’ve read anything by Lovegrove, then you’ll know what to expect as this book is based on the same structure.  It is violent, with a shallow and mostly obvious plot, but it is exciting and enjoyable.  You’ll either like this sort of story and love this book or hate the genre and hate the book.

In John Redlaw’s London, vampires are real. They are referred to euphemistically as “the sunless” and have escaped persecution from Europe to live in walled ghettos as proscribed by the UK government.  There they are regularly supplied with cow’s blood in order to keep them pacified but they are simplistic and brutal creatures, little more than animals.  For their protection and the protection of the public, a dedicated force of SHADE officers has been appointed to keep them in their ghettos and to keep vigilantes out.  Redlaw is a member of this force and he has a reputation as a powerful and dangerous fighter of humans and vampires.  Right from the start he is shown as uncompromising, dedicated and even-handed, protecting both humans and vampires equally.  Unless, of course, they cross him and then he beats them up if they’re human or “dusts” them if they are vampires. He has his conflicts and alliances within the force, but, after a number of riots by vampires, he decides that something is wrong and he needs to investigate it.

Meanwhile, we meet a corrupt and venal politician, called Slowcock, who is a highly trained in the oriental art of muay thai.  He is soon shown to be brutal when he beats up an opponent, putting him into hospital. Those who know Lovegrove’s work will immediately guess how this man will be key to the storyline at some later point. In addition, we meet the equally corrupt and greedy billionaire Lambourne, who has made even more millions out of building the walled ghettos inhabited by the Sunless.

Redlaw investigates the riots and starts to disobey the orders of his superiors as he learns that something is not right.  He meets Illyria, a female vampire with special powers.  She is not stupid and brutish like the rest of the vampires and they form a tense alliance.  His is soon fighting everyone around him, including the police force, as the story leads to its violent climax in a series of twists and turns.

As I wrote above, this novel is typical of Lovegrove’s style.  It is well written, engaging and a good read despite a weak plot.  It relies on intense action to maintain interest.  There were a couple of surprising twists but, basically, none of the characters developed in any way and, with one or two exceptions, their role in the story was obvious and moderately predictable as soon as they were introduced. The plot was formulaic and the characters were stereotypical, straight from any number of detective stories.  Redlaw was having difficulty coming to terms with the loss of his partner; there were some nasty cops that abused their power and hated Redlaw; and the bad guys were undeniably and irrevocably evil.  Following the stereotype and quite predictably, Redlaw ends up rebelling against his boss and either fighting with, or running from, everyone around him.

Also, the characters are almost superhuman – they can fight many opponents and survive and they have an inhuman ability to keep on fighting right to the extreme end.  I find that such super heroics can become tiresome after a while.

The author’s style is very well written, clean and focused, describing the action scenes extremely well.  This is just as well as there’s not much else to keep the reader going.

I found the analogy between vampires and refugees/asylum seekers heavy handed and stretched beyond breaking point.  It just wasn’t believable that people would try to look after such deadly vampires so close to where they lived.

Overall, it was very similar in structure and style to Lovegrove’s Age of Odin, but without the interesting mythology.

The plot is based on “Overcoming the Monster” (see The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker).

I give it the following positive awards, which the author will probably like.  Each award is out of five.

Three car chases for a good pace maintained throughout the story.
Two stolen paintings that are magically returned at the end for a couple of good twists in the plot.

I also give it the following awards which the author may not appreciate quite so much.

Five replicants for a failed attempt to make vampires the victims in what is essentially a parallel to racial prejudice.  These vampires really kill people.  There is no way they would be tolerated.
Three Lethal Weapon guns for a storyline and characters borrowed from so many cop movies.
Three self-applied sutures in the jungle (you should have guessed which sort of movie I’m talking about by now) for Redlaw’s unbelievable ability to keep fighting despite barely survivable injuries.

To summarise, the story is well written and full of action scenes, but it was also formulaic and the characters stereotyped and underdeveloped.  I would recommend it if your only interest is blood pounding (and flowing) action.  And then I would recommend it strongly.

Redlaw by James Lovegrove
Published by Solaris Books
Review by Wayne J. Harris

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