Redlaw by James Lovegrove

March 11, 2012

Policing the Damned 

They live among us, abhorred, marginalised, despised. They are vampires, known politely as Sunless. The job of policing their community falls to the men and women of the Sunless Housing and Disclosure Executive SHADE. Captain John Redlaw is London’s most feared and respected SHADE officer, a living legend. 

But when the vampires start rioting in their ghettoes, and angry humans respond with violence of their own, even Redlaw may not be able to keep the peace. Especially when political forces are aligning to introduce a radical answer to the Sunless problem, one that will resolve the situation once and for all…

When it comes to a horror staple like vampires, there is so much existing fiction that anything new needs to offer some sort of unique hook, or it won’t hold my attention. Redlaw by James Lovegrove goes the political route and makes vampires an immigration issue.

Over subsequent decades everyone’s favourite blood-suckers have migrated from mainland Europe to Great Britain. Throughout the country, various segregated communities have been set up to try and contain their rising numbers, but as the novel begins things have finally reached a tipping point. The general public are starting to voice their displeasure at the growing number of undead that live right on their doorstep.

The situation is far from perfect, and it is up to the men and women who work for SHADE (I do love a good acronym) to protect humans from vampires and vice-versa. The ‘shadies’ spend their nights trying to keep the peace. They are drawn from different religions and this gives the author an opportunity to include some social commentary regarding how the different shadies view their role. For some it is a just a job, for others a calling.

The heart of the novel is the character of John Redlaw himself. His stoic demeanor and tough as nails attitude are a sight to behold. Driven by the need to do the right thing, Redlaw may come across as harsh but is ultimately always fair. He is a man of faith and this is what drives him to always try and do right.  As far as vampire community is concerned he is the law. I have to admit that Redlaw does remind me a little of another well-known lawman who was known for his granite like exterior. Anyone who has ever read 2000AD will see similarities between Redlaw and Joe Dredd, both exist to deliver their own unique brand of justice. I think it is fair to say that Clint Langley’s striking cover art does little to dispel this this feeling.

It would be wrong, however, to think of Redlaw as simply a clone of Judge Dredd though. For me Dredd has always been a little two-dimensional, Redlaw is far more than that. The continuing persecution of the vampires plays a pivotal role in Redlaw’s character development. Through the course of the novel, he suffers a crisis of faith and is severely tested by the situations he finds himself in. I’m not religious but even I can appreciate that the trials he faces would push any one to the limit.

I’m a big fan of James Lovegrove’s existing body of work. The ongoing Pantheon series in particular is a firm favourite. James Lovegrove has shown with those novels that he has the rare gift of being able to successfully reinvent mythologies and ancient cultures in a modern and thought provoking way. He has managed the self same feat with Redlaw. He has taken the legends and folklore of vampires, that your average horror fan is already familiar with, and tweaked them to fit snuggly in the confines of a fast paced political thriller. This novel features vampires that are still nightmarish creatures to be feared, due to their endless bloodlust, but Lovegrove has also managed to cast them in a sympathetic light.

Redlaw is published by Solaris Books and is available now.

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