As a trained phlebotomist, I’m fully qualified to tell you that this book is bloody fun. Chris Panatier’s upcoming debut novel has satisfied a thirst I didn’t know I had for a dystopian heist adventure.
The Phlebotomist is set in 2067 after a series of nuclear attacks have led to radiation poisoning and a slew of illnesses, particularly blood-related diseases. The government has been supplanted by Patriot, a private organisation who enforce a monthly blood tax in order to save the sick who live in the Grey Zones.
While the majority of jobs have been automated, Willa is one of the lucky few still employed, working as a phlebotomist and collecting the monthly blood tithe. With no other source of income, most people are forced to sell additional units of their blood to Patriot, who set their buying price based on demand. This has given rise to a caste system where O-blood type citizens – highbloods – receive a generous premium for their in-demand juice, while people with the less desirable AB-blood – lowbloods – are paid a pittance and live in relative poverty. Willa is AB-positive but has saved up and moved to a B-positive neighbourhood with her grandson Isaiah.
Willa’s life is quickly turned upside down when she sees something she shouldn’t have, making her question her whole world. Harbouring new suspicions about Patriot, Willa is forced to cooperate with blood-hackers, criminals who profit from mislabelled units of blood, to keep Isaiah safe.
The Phlebotomist has been on my TBR ever since I first saw the stunning cover illustrated by the author himself. This book is as fun as it is surprising, with Panatier putting an interesting new twist on more than one genre mainstay. While the story can be read as scathing social and political commentary, I think Panatier mostly wants you to sit back and enjoy his bloody ride.
Willa is a badass woman tackling the world head-on in her aubergine boots and candy-pink wig. She is a loveable character, tired of the world and at the same time ready to see it burn if it means giving her grandson a better chance at life. At 60-something years of age, she’s not your typical lead for a spec fic dystopian novel, but I found her point of view refreshing and interesting, one that we should definitely see more of in SFF. Willa and the tech-savvy, slightly unhinged Lock are absolutely my new favourite criminal duo.
With plenty of style, humour, action and a fantastic ending, I would love to see a screen adaption of The Phlebotomist. In the meantime, you can pre-order a copy of the book ahead of its release on 8th September.
Big thanks to Angry Robot for providing an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, and congrats to Chris Panatier for an awesome debut.