I’ll level with you. Like most of the world over 30 I’m a bit bored with vampires and their stupid goth pallor and teenage girl appeal. Thanks Twilight. Consequently I wasn’t 100% eager to read Worth Their Weight in Blood by Carole Jahme. But read it I did and I was suddenly reminded that vampire novels and films can be pretty cool and can be found outside the Young Adult section and don’t always contain awkward teen romance.
In my youth I loved the movies/books Near Dark, Fright Night, The Lost Boys, Blade, Salem’s Lot and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Then there are books like I am Legend by Richard Mattheson – a vampire tale told from a different angle that is both awesome and kind of sad. And who can forget Buffy who was both a teenager and fell in love but was pretty cool to watch.
The vampire genre is actually pretty versatile and I was pleased that Carole Jahme has tried something a bit different. She has a master’s degree in evolutionary psychology and generally knows about all that evolution stuff. Her angle on the genre is to treat vampires as just another humanoid offshoot along with Neanderthals, the Indonesian pygmy and us homo sapiens.
The story revolves around a lady called Scarlett Fox, who is a single mum that lives in a village in Oxfordshire. She’s unemployed and understandably bored with life. Then a mysterious blood research facility called the Zomnifers Institute opens up nearby. Around this time a family of four are found burnt to death near some ancient stones. Scarlett gets a job at the institute looking after a chimpanzee they have but she starts to notice that things are a bit strange with her fellow astoundingly attractive workmates. I won’t give any more away but there are vampires involved.
I really enjoyed Worth Their Weight in Blood and liked the angle and direction that Jahme takes the story. There are some fascinating sections on evolution and evolutionary psychology weaved into the tale. There was only one section about the ability to self reflect that I felt went on a bit but that could have been because I had recently watched a documentary on that subject a week before at work. Otherwise the science stuff is well integrated and very readable.
The story is well paced and got me in. I found the very beginning a tiny bit slow but when things start to happen the scene is well set and the claustrophobia is in place so maybe I just have a short attention span. Looking back, I realise it was handled pretty well and it makes the events that follow that much more absorbing. Scarlett in particular is well fleshed out by the time weirdness starts to occur.
The vampires themselves are pretty cool. Jahme explains the evolution that led to them losing their empathy, so when things start get bloody it’s pretty understandable. Another nice touch is how Scarlett evolves throughout the story and how her development and thought processes are juxtaposed with the ape she is studying and the vampires she finds surrounding her.
In fact the only thing that bugged me about Worth Their Weight in Blood was the names. The vampires you can understand, as vampires tend to have odd names. They are the celebrity children of the undead. It was just that alongside the weirdly named vampires, you have Scarlett Fox’s family – her mum Red, and her daughter Ruby. It’s possible this is a coincidentally blood-coloured family tradition or destiny/vampire related and will be discussed in a later book but it felt weird. It’s a very mionr niggle though.
Worth Their Weight in Blood is definitely worth a read. Especially if you fancy a new twist on the genre. Carole Jahme is a Guardian journalist and science author and there is no doubt that she can write. If you like vampires and feel like a new take, check it out. Enjoy.
UK: Worth Their Weight In Blood
US: Worth Their Weight In Blood