Blood Oath (Farnsworth novel)
|Cover artist||Will Staehle|
|Genre||Horror, Political Thriller, Spy Novel|
|May 18, 2010|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
Blood Oath is a novel published in 2010 by Christopher Farnsworth. It centers on three main characters: Nathaniel Cade, a vampire more than 160 years old, currently bound by a blood oath to serve and protect the President of the United States; former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Agent William Griffin, or "Griff," Cade's handler for more than 30 years, and Zach Barrows, a former White House staffer that is Griff's replacement. The novel focuses on a deadly new threat to the United States from a horrible biological attack.
Farnsworth has stated that the idea behind this book came from the strange story of President Andrew Johnson's pardon of a man accused of being a vampire, as related by Robert Damon Schneck and Charles Fort. He reasoned that if this story was true, how powerful of an agent for the United States could that vampire become, and how much good would he be able to do?
A Army Ranger unit is reassigned from hunting an Al-Qaeda terrorist cell in Iraq, to suddenly a clandestine mission in the unstable Republic of Kosovo, with details classified by the army's superiors. The unit conducts surveillance and maintains a security perimeter on a pack of Serbian thugs as night falls. A mysterious operative is then brought before the Serbian pack's leader and attempts to bargain with them for a metal box marked with US Army stencils that was stolen in rioting at the country's embassy. The operative attempts to trade a large bag of money for the case. However, the leader refuses to honour the agreement and, despite clear warnings by the operative, has his men attack the figure. One of the soldiers, veteran sniper Specialist Wayne Denton, witnesses the unusual operative suddenly react inhumanly fast and strong and proceeds to systematically kill them all, expertly and withstanding no injuries. Denton tries to kill the leader when he believes he will escape, only to find the leader is similarly fast and avoids his shot. Enraged, the leader races up to Denton's position to kill him. The operative, finished with the pack, intervenes at the last moment and kills the leader - witnessing the fight between them up close, Denton realizes what he is seeing: the Serbians were werewolves, and the operative, as he leaves, reveals he is a vampire. The unit is sworn to secrecy and returns to its mission the next day.
Twenty hours later, political operative Zachary Taylor "Zach" Barrows is escorted by Special Agent William Hawley "Griff" Griffin to the Smithsonian Institution directly from a meeting with Samuel Curtis, the President of the United States, at the White House. Zach, a savvy and capable rising star in the world of US politics, and previously the White House deputy director of political affairs, with ultimate aspirations for the presidency himself, attempts to understand his situation. Griff rebuffs his attempts under the premise of "information containment" (Zach will know what he needs to know, when he needs to know it). Griff then silences Zach completely by revealing his own opinion that Zach is in his situation as, while drunk, Zach was caught by the Secret Service having sex with the president's daughter, Candace.
Upon arrival and entrance to the Smithsonian's oldest area, Griff brings Zach into the Reliquary; a hidden base containing relics (e.g. skeletal remains, robot pieces, crystal skulls, stone tablets, carved idols etc.) never before seen by the general public. As Griff explains, they are trophies kept by its occupant: Nathaniel Cade, the president's vampire (and the mysterious operative from Kosovo). Griff reveals to Zach that vampires and creatures like them are very real, all part of the "Other Side" (a world of darkness and evil that surrounds the human world) and on a regular basis make attempts to infiltrate, overrun and wipe out the human race. Griff, a veteran former FBI agent nearing retirement, has acted as Cade's latest liaison for the office of the president. Nearing retirement, Zach has been chosen to succeed Griff, as President Curtis considers him loyal and trusted with national security. Another reason for this sudden appointment is Griff's health is failing - he previously had cancer, and it has now returned and Griff is terminally ill.
Through flashbacks, Cade, as a young man, was serving on a whale hunting vessel in 1867. His ship was attacked by a vampire, killing all on board but leaving Cade, who turned into a vampire himself. He was then captured a short time later, the soldiers who did so found he was feeding on the corpses of his two best friends who served with him on the ship. Tried and sentenced to death, Cade was spared from being hanged when President Andrew Johnson pardoned him. Publicly he commuted his sentence to life imprisonment and official records on Cade say he died years later in an insane asylum.
In truth, Johnson, knowing exactly what Cade had become and the threats of the Other Side, decided to use him as a defence from incursions by monsters like him. To ensure his loyalty and obedience, Johnson brought voodoo queen Marie Laveau to bind Cade to the Office of the President and serve the orders of the president and his appointed representatives. Cade, suicidal over his transformation and the murders of his friends, asks Laveau to end his life. Laveau however explains that, because of his actions and his new nature, Cade is damned - God will not receive him and Heaven has no place for him, despite his Christian faith, and there is no chance of redemption. Despite this, Laveau gives Cade some compassion, explaining further that he can do much good in the world with his new abilities, and save others from the Other Side. While Johnson wants Cade reduced to a mindless slave, Laveau is against this idea and instead uses a blood oath between Cade and an object provided by Johnson - the bullet that had killed President Abraham Lincoln. Appealing to his faith, Cade agrees to not turn his back on everything he was, and maintains he is a loyal patriot of the United States. Laveau performs the magic ritual and he is released to serve and fight for the president.
As Zach begins his first day, he and Cade are dispatched to the Port of Baltimore. ICE agents have found a shipping container holding a horrible discovery: various body parts all from deceased U.S. servicemen, all hanging on hooks in a grim meat locker. After interrogating the driver, Cade tells Zach that they are on their way to find Johann Konrad Dippel, the real-life inspiration for Dr. Frankenstein, as Cade suspects someone is trying to duplicate Konrad's research on bringing the dead back to life.
Konrad is an alchemist from Germany, and is currently over 350 years old, due to having discovered the Elixir of Life. His Elixir can bring dead tissue to life, and make it so strong just one of his creations killed dozens of people before being stopped. Konrad has previously been encountered by Cade developing bio-weapons for the Nazis and had been arrested in Nigeria by Cade in 1970; however, Konrad performs a service to the United States in 1981 and as a result is set free, as long as he does not practice his evil medicine again.
Cade and Zach confront Konrad at his office in Las Vegas, where he is operating as a plastic surgeon, who denies any involvement with the dead body parts. However, after Cade and Zach leave, Konrad moves to a secret lab and proceeds to demonstrate that he has not given up his diabolical work at all.
Cade leaves Zach to tail Konrad while he finds an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to attend. At the A.A. meetings, Cade is able to draw strength from the humans, as they all struggle with desire for the drink, even if they have different thirsts. As Cade leaves, he is stopped by Tania, a female vampire he failed to help in the past. While neither will admit it, their shared history gives them both the closest thing to feelings for each other that vampires can feel.
As Zach is tailing Konrad, he is followed by a mysterious black car. With Cade's assistance, they ambush the black car and find Helen Holt, a former CIA agent who now works for a dark organization referred to as the Shadow Company. The Shadow Company began during the Cold War, and has since delved into darkness so deep that the conspiracy theories about President John F. Kennedy and Roswell are nothing compared to the truth of what they truly do.
As Cade and Zach dig deeper and deeper into the truth behind the body parts and their connection to Konrad, they find back-stabbing and double-crosses waiting for them at every turn, with their search finally ending in a terrifying showdown with the Other Side that takes place in the heart of the nation's capital.
Self-control/sacrifice: Cade is unique in vampires in that he refuses, in spite of agonizing pain and wild desire, to drink human blood. This stems from his traumatic conversion from human to vampire. He subsists on animal blood, and in a unique twist, he helps fight his thirst for blood by attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, drawing strength from alcoholics who fight their thirst every day of their lives.
Religion: Cade's constant self-damnation contrasts with his fanatical fight to serve and protect, rather than feed on, humans. This constant struggle has been described by Farnsworth as stemming from Cade being raised Calvinist, with a strong belief in predestination and the damnation of most of humanity., He also objects when those around him blaspheme by using the Lord's name in vain, and wears a worn cross around his neck, despite its physical discomfort.
Fear of unknown: Besides the obvious "cool" factor to vampires, Farnsworth describes much of the story reflecting society's current fears. He states that "Whenever we have trouble facing our fears head-on, we call out the monsters. In the 50s, it was the alien invasion movie. In the 80s, it was the relentless, unstoppable serial killer. And now, we're dealing with the War on Terror with vampires and zombies."
Reviews have generally been very positive for the first time novelist. Elizabeth Hand of the Washington Post called Blood Oath an "irresistible page-turner... a 21st-century riff on themes explored in such classics from America’s first Paranoid Age as “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” The New York Times has Blood Oath topping their summer reading list. Billy Heller with the New York Post has Blood Oath on its required reading list. Jim at Reelzchannel.com states that "After all the deep sighs, long stares, and sparkling skin, this kind of action-oriented supernatural story is just what the genre needs to expand the audience." The Wall Street Journal seems to enjoy the fun of the book, calling it "silly but better than Twilight."
Beevers from sandwichjohnfilms.com calls this "not just another vampire novel" and perfect for anyone tired of the Twilight series vampires. Joseph McCabe of Fearnet.com stated in an online interview that with so many different takes on vampires in various media outlets, it is hard to come up with something unique. His impression, however, is that Farnsworth has managed to create just that. And Litfestmagazine.com has placed it in both their "Great Books" and "Best Books of the Year" categories.
References and inspirations
Farnsworth admits to being a fan of many other vampire novels, though he claims to stay away from them while writing. He has described Zach as the type of person that he might have become had he stayed the political path instead of reporting. He is also reportedly a big fan of Jack Kirby and Grant Morrison, two successful comic book creators.
According to Fangoria.com, Blood Oath has been optioned by producer Lucas Foster, the man behind Man on Fire, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Equilibrium and Law Abiding Citizen, among many others. Farnsworth, who will have an executive producer credit for the film, has not had much to say about the production other than his great desire to have Christian Bale in the title role of Cade and Justin Long filling in for Zach.
"For Cade, I would love to see Christian Bale. He's a chameleonic actor who can portray the best and worst in people. For Zach, I always saw Justin Long (The "Mac" in the "Mac and PC" commercials from Apple.)"
Farnsworth has recently released book three, titled Red, White and Blood, and states that he would like to continue Cade's adventures for quite some time. "I've got ideas and outlines for 10 books in the series. I'm not sure how much further I'll go after that, but as long as people keep buying them, we'll get at least to number 10."
Farnsworth is currently finishing a cross country book reading and signing tour. He has visited various cities in California, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon and Texas, and will finish in Bakersfield, California at the end of June, with a Halloween Night event in Irvine, CA.
- "Book review: War on horror: Three new novels on vampires and demons," Elizabeth Hand, Wednesday, April 14, 2010; C04
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-05. Retrieved 2010-06-09.