In Ranum’s debut novel, a mysterious professor lures students to a secret lab where vampires and a serum imparting eternal life combine to go horribly awry.
Protagonist Josh Tanner can’t pass up an opportunity to work with renowned scientist Charles Fisk on a project that will provide â€œthe greatest contribution to mankind in history,” despite having tasty job offers from four major corporations. The temptation of wealth and fame is irresistible for five other accomplished young researchers, and the six find themselves living in an underground lab, shut off from society while they work to isolate the magic formula of everlasting life. From Fisk’s first demonstration of a lab mouse regenerating itself, the students are hooked, but are soon distracted by the appearance of Mr. Hobbs, an admitted vampire who is to protect them while in the facility. Before long, Hobbs has trouble containing his thirst for fresh blood, and readers are taken on a rollicking ride, as they’re never sure who’s been bitten and who is still untouched. With the research facility no longer safe and police detective Mitch Barry on the trail, Fisk attempts to protect the students, but containment is impossible and the menace explodes into a frightening reality as good and evil battle it out in a college town. The story is told through the eyes of each character by turns, but always returns to the sympathetic protagonist Josh, who personally struggles with the serum and its consequences. Ranum has trouble establishing a consistent narrative voice in the novel, with some painfully forced dialogue and awkward plot development, but the characters of Mitch and Josh are compelling and real.
This fast-moving thriller could benefit from judicious editing of storylines.