The Phlebotomist (Book Review)
3.5 / 5 - Sci Fi (Thriller)
I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review!
Willa works as a “Reaper”; a technician who processes blood donated by the populace. Except it isn’t so much a donation as a mandatory process intended to support the victims of nuclear war outside of the city. Certain blood types are paid more. As such, society has segregated into a class system based on this categorization. Willa works her job to support her grandson, but a chance encounter sends her life spiralling into a conspiracy that pairs her with a fast-talking hacker and those in the criminal underworld who are looking to even society’s odds. Until they discover something they never expected.
Cue ominous music.
I definitely enjoyed reading this novel, but it didn’t blow me away. There are many variations of classism/segregation in sci-fi novels, but this was one I hadn’t read before. Segregating people by blood type was a fascinating premise, as blood type is something I rarely think about (truth be told, I don’t know my blood type and I’m 35-years-old). The logistics of the Harvest was fairly believable, as was the eventual reason for it that we find out about a quarter of the way in. While I wasn’t super keen on the twist itself, the story is an exciting, entertaining thriller.
The book really shines with the two main characters: Willa, the rather naive and complacent grandmother, and Lock, an ex-marine hacker with a big gun. The two have a fun dynamic that plays one off of the other and it was wonderful to see a novel in this genre feature not only one old lady protagonist, but two. Willa is too hesitant and Lock is too rash, which create interesting scenarios. Neither really grow too much as people, but they are quite fun. There is another character, Everard, who gets a perspective, but as it’s only a few chapters, we don’t learn nearly enough about him, despite hints that he has an interesting backstory.
Unfortunately, there is a tonal shift from first half to second that takes the story from serious sci-fi to rather campy. While it was still fun, I enjoyed the more subtly menacing tone of the first bit more than the action-adventure narrative of the second half. It felt like the novel was trying to “say something” in the first half but in the second half this message (about classism presumably) dissolves and it becomes simply an adventure.
Yet, it’s a fun ride with a pair of protagonists we’re not used to seeing, in a novel which morphs from one genre to another in a twist I’m surprised I didn’t expect!