I’m currently reading Blood Colony, the last book in Tananarive Due’s African Immortals trilogy. This fast-paced, sci-fi thriller series begins with My Soul to Keep, when Jessica, African-American reporter, discovers that her supposedly mild-mannered jazz scholar husband, David, is actually an immortal member of secret Ethiopian sect of men [the Life Brothers] supposedly sustained by blood from Jesus Christ. David, actually named Dawit, contravenes his sect’s doctrines of secrecy and non-attachment by forming a family, giving immortality to a woman [shock!] and, you know, acting like a human being. Meanwhile, Jessica tries not to lose her shit.
In The Living Blood, Jessica and Dawit have a daughter, Fana, who is not only immortal, but super-powered. Again they must deal with Life Brother politics while trying to keep Fana, 3, from destroying the world [or at least the Caribbean].
Finally, in book 3, Dawit, Jessica and Fana [now 17] collaborate with some Life Brothers to bring the healing Blood to sick people around the world, wiping out blood diseases. Their mission of kindness puts them in direct conflict with another rival sect of immortals, Sanctus Cruor, who are into eugenics and ethnic cleansing. Death, chases, mind fucks and apocalyptic scenarios ensue.
Due tosses together vampiric creatures [super-strong, super-fast, super-smart, obsessed with blood and immortal: yeah, they’re vampires], Christian faith, feminism, fate vs. free will and superheroes. The resultant rich and spicy mixture works!! I credit much of her trilogy’s power to Due’s lean, muscular writing. The prose is quick but compentent in book 1, but it soon improves to swift, economical status by books 2 and 3.
Additionally, Due’s themes of moral responsibility make this trilogy especially engrossing. While there are obvious good guys and bad guys in this series, Due’s omniscient perpsective combines curiosity and compassion for all characters. She tries to realistically answer the question of how human beings would deal with immortality. The Life Brothers exclude themselves from humanity, perfecting intellectual arts, while Sanctus Cruor, the eugenics nuts, will obliterate human life in order to safeguard the Blood. Meanwhile, Dawit, Jessica and Fana, who spread the Blood as salvation, represent a generous use of immortality. In other words, Due’s thesis is that immortality brings out the extremes in people, both the very best and the very worst. Her vampires are all too human, an interpretation of monsters that I find much more compelling than the monsters=aliens portrayal.
Verdict: With a sympathetic cast [including assertive and realistic women, woooo hoooo!], the pacing of a suspense series and a compelling moral exploration that most fantasy trilogies can’t hold a candle to, the African Immortals trilogy provides an intelligent and delicious revision of vampire lore.