Book Review: 'Blood Kin' by Steve Rasnic Tem


Steve Rasnic Tem follows 2011’s magnificent Deadfall Hotel (Centipede Press and Solaris) and a recent string of short fiction collections, Ugly Behavior (New Pulp Press), Onion Songs (Chomu Press), and Celestial Inventories (ChiZine), with his latest novel, Blood Kin (Solaris). Blood Kin is an Appalachian Gothic in the vein of Cormac McCarthy’s Outer Dark or the stories of Manly Wade Wellman. The story alternates between Depression-era and contemporary Virginia, following Sadie Gibson and her grandson, Michael, respectively. The Gibsons are different than those around them, they feel things, know things. Michael is at a crossroads in his life, not sure where to go or what to do, when he returns to the hills where he was raised to care for his aging grandmother. Sadie has a story to tell him so that he can understand what’s in the iron-bound crate beneath the kudzu vine and how she put it there before it escapes.

Sadie’s adolescence makes up most of this novel, and it is the more engrossing of the two story lines. In it, she is forced to discover herself and her strength to stop a villain as powerful as he is evil. Michael’s story line reads in the beginning like a frame for Sadie’s to be presented and doesn’t come into its own until the novel’s thrilling climax. Blood Kin is built on a love for storytelling not only in its plot structure but also in its references to other works. However, in spite of its many allusions, references, and fairly standard multi-timeline plot, it is unlike any novel I’ve ever read. Steve Rasnic Tem has been a major voice in fantastic literature for over three decades, and Blood Kin may be the best novel he’s written. It is powerful and affecting and unforgettable. It is a major work by a major writer.

Blood Kin by Steve Rasnic Tem (Solaris; February 25, 2014) 978-1781081976, SRP - $9.99