Title: "Blood Water"
Author: Dean Vincent Carter
Genre: Horror, YA
Publisher: Random House
What you should expect: “Blood Water” is labelled as teen horror and manages to stay true to its nature. As with all YA literature I have read recently I felt dissatisfaction with myself for not being able to connect with the novel, despite it being in one of my favorite genres. I do hold the view that this is an excellent title for those inexperienced with the genre as well as for the undeveloped minds of younger teens.
Pros: What made my day about this novel were the gore and death count, which were served with an unapologetic generosity. I find this quite ballsy, since we are talking YA fiction, and in that train of thought kudos to the author for not holding back and inflicting the readers the dreaded PG-13 rating.
Cons: While gore is great, I never felt like “Blood Water” tried figuring new uses to horror’s shack of tools and in that regard I am quite a picky reader. My introduction to horror came when I was still in preschool and after that I have only fuelled my phobia of poorly lit spaces, so this makes me quite prepared for almost everything. “Blood Water” remained simplistic in order to cater to its intended audience, which alas didn’t bring me the satisfaction I hoped I would receive in taking this novel.
The Summary: Considering sparse length, 256 pages, and its fast-paced and straight-forward nature “Blood Water” doesn’t require a detailed summary on my behalf. Sophistication in terms of plot is not the novels prerogative, so I see the book blurb fit to give the novel’s idea in a nutshell.
They're all dead now. I am the last one. Dr Morrow can't identify the 'thing' he found living in the lake but he knows it's dangerous ...then it goes missing ...Caught in the flood that is devastating the town, brothers Sean and James stumble across Morrow and the carnage left at his lab. The missing specimen is some kind of deadly parasite that moves from person to person, destroying its hosts in disgusting, gory ways. The death toll will rise along with the waters unless the brothers can track down the homicidal specimen and find a way to destroy it.
The Characters: “Blood Water” is told in third person point of view and divides between Dr. Morrow, Sean and the parasitic snail. When I look at the characters I see an interesting progression in quality and dimensions from Dr. Morrow to Sean and then to the parasiste. Dr. Morrow for me embodies the dictionary description of unhealthy but good natured curiosity in the name of science. He carries the responsibility for giving the deadly parasite enough consciousness and self awareness to give undertakers a busy week, but only after he realizes his grave mistake does he try to undo the damage. Staying true to numerous scenarios in this vein he fails and this costs him his life.
A bit more interesting is Sean in the regard that the author has chosen the character to be without a definite identity. Perhaps I may have read the novel wrong, but I didn't pick any cues about his exact age other that he attends school, his appearence or any special area of interest other than his participation in a marathon. This, in most cases, speaks of lacking characterization. However here I think this is done with a strategic purpose so that the reader can better identify himself with the protagonist and experience the thrill ride in this horror story. The lack of details about the character allow the reader to fill in the blank with their own personal traits far easier and thus appreciate the novel better.
Perhaps the best innovation Carter does is including the thoughts of the parasite. Considering the fact that it is sentient, possesses bodies and copies its hosts’ behavior it’s logical to ask what it aims to achieve. I found much satisfaction, glimpsing that for the parasite its adamant he remembers his past. The possession business with deadly side effects is part of its nature, the same way the snake doesn't feel compassion for its prey, but then again in a sense it has a human mind frame to a point as it grasps concepts such as right, wrong and conquering the world.
Story: There are certainly some strengths to this tale as it combines the inherent fear of humans towards insects and lower organisms like arachnids with the also so horrifying idea of becoming a nursery for their larvae, a concept turning The Thing and the Alien series into classics. Despite its inability to affect me enough as to scare me, I think “Dead Water” has found the balance between two types of horror. One, there is the horror founded in the unknown, since the protagonists had no initial idea, who happened to be the parasite’s host at any time. Then there is the horror of knowing the exact moment and the exact way your end will come and then watch it unfold helplessly
The thing about this novel that saddens me is that if it was taken and developed as an adult book and was meatier at 370-400 pages all of these things would have worked better. In its current form perhaps it will serve well for its intended audience, but for me it lacked appeal and felt stripped. If I have received this book for my 13th birthday, then my opinion would have leaned more on gushing out praise.
Verdict: Buy it for you children, not for yourselves.