Book Review: In the Blood by Miranda Luna

In The Blood is the first novel by Oregon-based author Miranda Luna: it’s been a while since I sat down to read horror fiction, much less horror fiction which takes the form of such a bloody love letter to the Goth subculture – and, with In The Blood, I was definitely pleased I’d taken a break from the film-watching.

The novel follows the fate of a novelist called Zoë Starr: existing both at the heart of the goth scene (as a popular writer) and on its periphery (as someone gradually pulling back from the world), Zoë is sinking into an oblivion of cheap-cut heroin and painful memories, despite the best efforts of those left around her who still care. She remains fixed in the here-and-now for one real reason – the welfare of her adopted daughter, Spider – but this, too, is problematic, and Spider obviously nurses a cool disregard for the ‘care’ she gets from her aunt.

But, for all the chaos and unhappiness, Zoë still thrives on her imaginative life – and finds herself more and more drawn to her old life in New Orleans, with her former love, Paris. They parted ways twelve years before, but Paris seems to be in the ascendant again – not just in her thoughts and dreams, though. He’s back in town, and this time he wants to see to it that their paths stay inextricably linked…

This is a novel which screams insider knowledge of the late 90s goth scene, particularly on its darker fringes – fetish, bloodplay, and so on. Scarred skin and bloodletting are constants here, and graphic depictions of self-harm and drug use are at the core of an understanding of the lead character – which may not be for every reader, though this seems born out of a genuine attachment to the subject at hand, rather than any wish to alienate. The novel is also very firmly-rooted in specifics of place, namely San Francisco and New Orleans. In fact, I think a few less markers – less specific mentions of subculture-specific bands, magazines, teeshirts, and so on – would have sufficed, because one of the strengths of the novel is that it feels like it belongs to its setting very early on. That said, in terms of the lead characters – Zoë especially – it was very easy to visualise them, and some of this is down to strongly-described appearances and mannerisms, as well as their internal worlds.

I also found it very easy to empathise with Zoë, because of that nicely-drawn internal dialogue. Even when her behaviour is damaging or desperate, it is possible to understand her motivations and accept her on her own terms. Luna also has a talent for depicting dream states and unreality in a convincing manner, and this is fundamental in making the plot hang together. There is also, as you might expect in a book themed around blood, flesh and lost loves, a fair amount of sex depicted – and mostly, these descriptions work (though not invariably; good sex is difficult to write and some of the descriptive terms start to trip over each other a little awkwardly in some parts of the story).

As for the ending – I wouldn’t spoiler anything, but I did wonder if it was left open to a degree…it would certainly be interesting to revisit these characters in future, or if not, an ambiguous close to the story fits in with the rather shadowy types of lives led by our protagonists.

So, some minor issues don’t prevent In The Blood from being an absorbing and heady story, with solid, interesting characterisation and evidence of a real love & knowledge of the realms wherein these characters dwell. (Keri O’Shea)

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News!

November 18, 2010

This Saturday, November 20th, I will be vending my final copies of the self-published edition of In the Blood at the Southern Oregon Book and Author Fair in Ashland, Oregon at the Ashland Springs Hotel. Books are on sale for $10! Come say hello and have your book signed!

I have been picked up by Simon & Schuster and I will not be self-publishing another run of In the Blood, or Birth. All pre-orders have been refunded. An expanded edition of In the Blood will be released in 2012. Keep an eye out!

I am now accepting pre-orders for my new novel, Birth.

Birth is a supernatural tale of horror, steeped in speed psychosis and urban legend. A journey to the darkest places of the heart.

It is self-published, standard paperback size, in larger type than my previous novel, on high quality paper with a glossy front and back cover featuring cover art from Catherine Lawrence.

If you pre-order a copy, yours will be shipped when they first come available in January, signed and personalized and including a free bonus gift.

Pre-orders are $20 (free postage worldwide) and can be paid to me at mirandaandzoe@gmail.com via Paypal, or you may e-mail me at the same address for an address to send a postal money order or well-concealed cash to.

The final remaining copies of the first printing of In the Blood are on sale for $13 in my Etsy shop – http://mirandaandzoe.etsy.com – get them before they’re gone! The second edition is available on Amazon for the normal price.

Awaiting Birth

July 1, 2010

My new novel, Birth, is looking at a tentative release date of January 2011.

What is Birth?

Birth is the landscape of terror where the real and unreal drift into one another, an ill wind, a breath of chemical smoke. Birth is meth psychosis and occultism becoming uneasy bedfellows in the dystopic wastelands of rural southern Oregon. Birth pushes the boundaries of drug culture, occulture, motherhood, and what it is to be human. Birth is a monster. Birth is nearly here.

I will be accepting pre-orders as of October 1.

A very limited amount of copies of the first edition of In the Blood are still available in my Etsy shop. I no longer sign them in blood, but I will happily sign one in ink for you.

You can view it youself here.

In the Blood
Jessie Seitz

Miranda Luna’s debut novel is a haunting look into a life of fetish, darkness and undying love.

Standing at a slim twenty-two chapters, In The Blood is a quick read but the story is one that sticks with you. Luna paints a tragic world that draws the reader in page by page, leaving you begging for more.

The story follows the character Zoe Starr – a writer, caregiver to her niece Spider, and a fast sinking heroin addict. With an unsatisfied love life, strange late night phone calls, and a sickness that won’t stop growing, Zoe slowly slips out of the world she’s built around herself. Her thoughts are consumed with her former lover Paris, whom she left behind ten years earlier. Paris has been calling out to her in dreams and leading Zoe back to him. But after all these years what could he possibly want? Zoe isn’t even sure if what she is experiencing is real anymore but something deep inside her presses on. What unfolds next yields terrifying truths, waking nightmares, and a passion greater than life itself.

One thing I find very attractive about Miranda Luna’s writing is her ability to balance real life and fantasy elements. Her sensitivity towards fetish blood play and heroin usage rings incredibly true, yet when a supernatural element is introduced, nothing seems over the top. Luna’s word usage is hypnotic and is sure to find a fan base in the Gothic community. You can pick up a copy of In The Blood for yourself at mirandaluna.com.

Please note that mirandaluna.com is no more; this is my author website now.

Their website is down right now, but, lucky you, I have my copy handy:

IN THE BLOOD by Miranda Luna is a story about a young woman who the “average” person would most likely label as problematic. Zoe Starr has an addiction to heroin and a far from healthy obsession with blood, in her art and in her sex life, the two of which often over-lap and blend to become one in a world where fantasy, smack-high and dreams are quite difficult to distinguish from reality.

Luna grabs your attention immediately in the prologue with a healthy dose of sex, dream and blood. While wildly entertaining from the beginning, this story morphs from reality to fantasy, which caught me off guard, and I’m not sure if it happened in a good way or not, it just sort of happened. Because of all the drug use there is a sort of non-reality reality that is abruptly shattered when the story shifts into actual unreality. Also, the, what I will call, “thought communication” that occurs throughout the book can be confusing since the person doing the thinking is rarely indicated, slightly interrupting the flow of conversation.

All in all, I found this book very original and entertaining, with enough sex to satisfy and tantalize, enough drug use to confuse and tempt, and enough blood to make me cringe and mentally evaluate my bandage stock. With it’s harshness and whimsy, IN THE BLOOD delivers a fantastic reality that will leave you pondering the power of true blood lust.

3.5/5 skulls

In the Blood by Miranda Luna

From the back cover:

The trick is to hide in plain sight…

In the decaying warehouse performance spaces and dimly lit nightclubs of San Francisco, a predator perfects his rituals of blood and torture, creating vast landscapes of nihilistic hedonism for jaded aesthetes. In the Tenderloin, in a haze of heroin and loss, horror novelist Zoe Starr tries to reassemble the shattered pieces of her life, gradually alienating everybody she has come to trust. Their love is unspoken, and together they will become their own legend. A shared lust for blood begets a nightmare world of post-modern sacrifice, perversion, redemption and slow-decay.

Copies are still available at Amazon.com starting at $20 for a signed copy. Please do NOT buy your copy from Lulu.com; they are unauthorized and being sold without my permission. I do not receive any revenue from them.