Friday, December 09, 2011

The Morganville Vampires: Bite Club by Rachel Caine

Not much time has passed in Morganville, but with the mail comes a new notice. Someone has set up a gym and will be teaching self-defense classes to humans. Although some might be troubled that the teacher is a vampire, Shane isn't upset. He's looking forward to learning more about fighting, and he also thinks that humans should learn to defend themselves against vampires. He and Claire decide to check it out.

Meanwhile, Claire has to hurry to class, and discovers that the teacher is making the students test blood. Unusually, it is vampire blood, which boils away when exposed to strong light. They are to work out why it does so, and what might prevent it. Claire is rather shocked that the vampires in town have descended to being this careless with the students, but using them as unpaid lab techs is just par for the course in Morganville.

What isn't par for the course is her labmate, a guy named Richard who has really bad body odor. Her mental name for him is "Stinky Richard", and she's less than thrilled when he tries to come on to her. But it gets even worse when Richard steals some of the vials of vampire blood from the class. Claire is concerned about Richard and what he intends to do with the blood, but Frank, the brain of the ex-vampire that runs the town, tells her vampire blood is essentially worthless- you can't use it as a drug because it doesn't last long enough, with some bad side-effects and coming down off it is a very hard crash.

But when Eve tells her roommates what Richard did, they all go with her to help her retrieve the vials- she's worried that one of the vampires in town will punish him for what he's done. and she tries to keep other humans safe. But by the time they get to his room, which reeks far, far worse than he does, he is already dead, and the vials are gone. Nobody can tell who might have killed him or wanted him dead, and the vials are gone.

Was it a vampire angered at Richard's tresspass, or for some other reason that he got killed? None of the vampires Claire knows will say- they are too busy chasing Bishop, the vampire "Father" of the town's vampire founder, Amelie, who was starved and imprisoned by her but has escaped.

Meanwhile, the roommates go to the gym, where Claire watches Shane attack and defeat a vampire named Terrence who is giving the self-defense classes. But to do so, he has to call on the great store of rage inside him, which Terrence notices and so places Shane in an advanced class. Claire, watching the display, is scared of Shane, but is dragged away by Eve to learn fencing.

While they are there, they are interrupted by Amelie and Oliver, who have come to practice some fencing of their own. Eve gets challenged by Oliver after she is snarky to him, but after she gets a touch on him, he retaliates by touching her so hard on the ribcage with his epee that he nearly breaks her ribs, and it leaves a huge bruise. Afterwards, as Eve recovers, they watch Amelie and Oliver sparring, and are amazed by how fast and skilled they are. But when the vampires discover them watching, they tell the two to leave.

Afterwards, at home, Shane loses a videogame to Michael, and blows up over it. Normally, he doesn't like to lose, but his rage this time is totally unlike him, and once again it scares Claire. That night, after Claire goes to bed, Myrnin comes to see her and brings her to Amelie. On the way, Myrnin is attacked by something, and she ends up not seeing Amelie that night.

But when she comes back to her room, she thinks she hears Shane canoodling with another girl in his room. She goes in to confront him, but he is watching television and there is nobody there. She only sees a streak before her eyes, but nothing else, and she can't accuse him of cheating if there is no one there. He's upset that he went into her room and she was gone- he knows she went off with Myrnin, who he doesn't like her hanging around. But they argue and Claire is heartbroken.

The next day, they manage to make up, but Shane is gone a lot of the time, and his temper problems are growing worse. And Gloriana, or Glory, one of Bishop's vampires, seems to be playing with him. Claire is unhappy, but Glory has the power of Charisma. Not quite the same as Compulsion, but still effective in getting people to do what she wants. It even affects Claire, and she has been warned about Glory. Only Frank giving her a powerful shock allows her to throw off the effect.

And Shane isn't the only one with growing temper problems. Monica Morell's friend Gina has taken to carrying a knife and nearly kills Miranda, a friendless girl who gets visions that allow her to see the future. Claire is able to save her and attempts to act as friend to Miranda, who is grateful, but she knows that she is dangerous to know, and saves Claire's life from Gina, who soon afterwards is in a car accident that sends Gina to the hospital.

Adding to Clair's confusion and problems, is the offer she's always wanted- to attend the prestigious physics program at M.I.T. But will the vampires let her accept and let her leave town? And for that matter, will Myrnin, her erstwhile teacher?

But does Gina's worse temper have anything to do why Shane is losing his so often? And what do Glory and the Gym have to do with it? As Claire and Amelie investigate, it's clear that someone is training the humans in town to fight in cage matches against Vampires. And to track them down, Claire will have to deal with Eve's old friend Kim, and Glory as well. But when Shane and Michael are matched up and the survivor must fight against Bishop himself, can Claire and her friends survive the fight and put down both Glory and Bishop so that they never threaten Morganville again?

This story is mostly told from Claire's viewpoint, with occasional interjections of Shane's as well. The story is very well told and entertaining. Even though I was very tired, I put off sleep until I had finished the story- I simply couldn't bring myself to stop reading.

Even though several problems have been solved for Morganville at the end of the novel, there are plenty others hanging on the horizon, like what will happen to Claire and her housemates. There are plenty of problems that still overhang them, like Michael's music career, Shane's problems with vampires, and that their lives are forfeit should they try to leave town. Can Morganville ever become safe, and will the Vampires ever let her leave? Or is she stuck there for the rest of her life?

Needless to say, I still love this series, and I still find the characters fascinating. Claire and her housemates occupy an important position in town, and each one represents a different opinion or section of Morganville's human and vampire populace. I love the characters, and the problems keep drawing me back in and keep me fascinated. Highly recommended.

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