Stainless by Todd Grimson has the subtitle “A Modern Romance.” I’m not sure I’d call it a romance. I would definitely call it a tale of obsessions. Both obsessive love and obsessive hate played a role in this story. And compulsion. I certainly felt compelled to finish once I’d started.
Human beings have found a surprising number of addictive substances to cure their addictions. Morphine was once thought to cure alcoholism. It was a case where the cure was just as bad as the original disease, since it replaced one addiction for another.
Stainless opens with Keith, a former junkie, describing how he was cured of his heroin addiction. A vampire bit him. Justine needed a human to take care of her house during the day, to drive her around looking for people to bite at night. In other words, Justine needed a Renfield. She picked Keith because he clearly had nothing to lose. Vampire bites are addictive, but it’s a much more functional addiction than heroin, at least if the vampire chooses it to be. It can also, of course, also be fatal.
Keith used to be lead guitar player for a hot rock bank, SMX. But just because the named sounds like “smacks” doesn’t mean he actually used to do smack. The drugs came later, after his girlfriend killed herself and her other boyfriend decided it was Keith’s fault. So he sent his goons over to break Keith’s hands. Without his music, Keith finally did descend into the drugs that everyone thought he’d been doing all along. And that’s where Justine found him. Doped up, strung out, and on the edge of suicide.
She saved him because she needed a pretty “Renfield” who wouldn’t give any more of a damn about life or death than she did. After 400 years as a vampire, Justine was nearly as strung out as Keith. But her survival instinct was a bit stronger. Being an apex predator will do that. And Justine has managed to forget a whole lot more than she remembers of her 400 years of “living.” It makes things easier.
But because Keith doesn’t care whether he lives or dies, he doesn’t pass judgements on Justine’s behavior. Slowly, these two extremely wounded creatures build a shaky bridge towards each other, based on mutual need. They need each other to have a reason to go on living. People have found love in stranger places.
Love makes everyone vulnerable. Even vampires.
And there’s a new vampire in town. Someone from Justine’s past. Who is so, so very good at exploiting vulnerabilities. Human vulnerabilities and vampire vulnerabilities. And he’s been waiting years to strike back at the vamp who made him. His time has come.
Escape Rating C+: I got sucked into this book. Pun both intended and not. The story started out slow, but once it picked up steam, I couldn’t let it go, or it didn’t let me go. The ending was inevitable, but it was the right, true and correct ending. Some stories are like that, there’s just no other way for them to go.
Stainless had to be set in LA, because the Hollywood movie myths played a part in the story. The evil vamp’s history in the shady background of Hollywood was definitely integral to the plot. But I also kept thinking that the whole “live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse” concept served as a kind of meta-background in my head as I read.
As interesting as all the obsessions were, there were just a few too many points of view. Not just the action, but the actual point of view kept switching from Keith to Justine to David (the bad vampire) to different members of his minions, to the doctor who wants to use Justine’s “blood” as a healing agent, and around and around. It was too easy to get lost among the shifting POVs.
And speaking of David…the bad vamp was not just born during the Hollywood of the 1920s, he was over-the-top melodramatic like a Hollywood set from the 1920s. Or at least he was to my tastes. Yours may vary.
For more of my thoughts on Stainless, head on over to Book Lovers Inc.