Monster Worlds and Mental Illness

A Review of D D Barant’s Dying Bites (St Martin’s, 2009)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Jace Valchek is an FBI officer and a forensic scientist. She is used to things following understandable rules and used to having a strict moral code: no grey areas.

Author photo courtesy of D D Barant

When she is tossed into a world where the population is made up of 37% vampires, 43% werewolves, and 19% golems and humanity represents less than 1% of the population, she is forced to question the taken-for-granted notions she used to have, and enter into an ambiguous space where nothing is the same.

Vampires, werewolves, and golems are incapable of having mental illness, so, when a serial killer starts torturing and killing them, they need someone who has a bit of experience with mental illness, and they choose a forensic psychologist from an entirely human world. D D Barant’s Dying Bites explores what it is like to move from a position of privilege in a world that mostly caters to you and your body type to a world that is entirely foreign and that casts you as a minority, an abject outsider, a victim of hate crimes, and, potentially food. Jace is surrounded by manipulation, lied to by government officials and confronted with a group that could be freedom fighters or could be terrorists. Her firm view of right and wrong is called into question when she is part of the minority that the “terrorists” are advocating for.

Jace has to adapt to a world that doesn’t belong to her, whose structures and customs are not just foreign to her, but also excluding. In order to gain some degree of respect, she must wear perfume that allows her to pass as a werewolf (at least until the full moon comes around). She encounters tremendous amounts of racism from the society, where “pure blood” werewolves and vampires are trying to pass laws that deny humanity any rights and render them essentially cattle. She encounters human enthusiasts – people from supernatural races who have an interest in the un-supernatural and collectors of comics about human beings (the ‘underheroes’) and their amazing ability to still accomplish things while lacking so much. She is perpetually surrounded by reminders that she is a minority living in a world that is not built for her. And, as a vegetarian in a world of predators, she also learns what it is like to be a minority that may be an appetizer.

D D Barant portrays a world that diverged from our own in the 12th century when our world invented guns and theirs began the widespread use of the golem (a figure from Jewish mythology made of animated clay). Many of the events of their world are similar, but with nuances that separate them from our own. Bram Stoker existed in this world, but instead of writing about vampires, he was out killing them. Jace finds herself stranded in this world of monsters living everyday lives, but her faith in ideas of right and wrong and the law are called into question as she discovers government conspiracies, genocide, and secret projects. Dying Bites is only book one of The Bloodhound Files and already the world has been shaken.

You can explore more about D D Barant and his series The Bloodhound Files on his website at http://ddbarant.com/ .

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2 thoughts on “Monster Worlds and Mental Illness

  1. Whoa! What a turn-around! Fascinating approach to the minority issue. I know someone who would absolutely LOVE this story. 🙂

    • Fantastic!! I am glad that you enjoy it. I have been gradually purchasing the rest of the series. After I read this first book, I knew I had to read the rest and couldn’t wait too long to read them 🙂

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