cover image The Phlebotomist

The Phlebotomist

Chris Panatier. Angry Robot, $14.99 trade paper (350p) ISBN 978-0-857-66861-5

Panatier debuts with an unsettling near-future dystopian tale. Four decades after the Chrysalis, a nuclear explosion that launched the world into ongoing radioactive warfare, Willa Mae Wallace works as a phlebotomist in a city obsessed with blood. The anemic population, divided into castes based on blood type, sells blood daily to pay for their meager food and lodgings. Willa’s work is steady, and her life with her grandson is quiet but pleasant. But her routine is upended when she witnesses a drone crash and receives a large sum of money to keep the sighting to herself. She spends her newfound wealth catering dinner for a poor neighborhood, an act of generosity that draws the attention of a criminal leader known as the Locksmith. As Willa is pulled into the criminal underworld and learns the true nature of the powers pulling the strings in this blood-crazed world, she realizes that she alone may be capable of bringing the evils down. Panatier’s powerful worldbuilding is driven by the utter focus on blood, but this focus also makes the eventual reveal of the forces secretly controlling the city too predictable. The story’s events are often tied together only loosely, but the fascinating characters are sure to keep the reader’s attention. This is a promising first outing. (Sept.)