Dan Simmons is simply a wonderful writer. In this unusual horror/thriller, the author combines the miracle of modern medical technology with the legend of Count Dracula, also known as Vlad the Impaler. Well-written and well-researched, the book provides a page turning, interesting twist to traditional vampire lore.
Amidst the desolation of post Ceausescu Romania, orphans are left to rot in state run institutions that are little more than places for them to die a slow, lingering death. An eminent American doctor, research hematologist Kate Neuman, becomes enamored of one little baby boy with an unusual medical condition that she feels can only be addressed in the United States. So, she impulsively adopts him, names him Joshua, and leaves the country with the assistance of a Franciscan priest, Michael O'Rourke.
Once ensconced back in the United States, Kate discovers something about Joshua's condition that provides a medical explanation for the Vampire legends of old. He has a rare genetic mutation that requires periodic blood transfusions for him to live. This condition, however, may also provide the key to cure a host of immunological diseases. Someone or something, however, wants the baby back in Romania and will stop at nothing to get him. For Joshua is a very special little baby, indeed.
The author is brilliant in his description of post communist Romania, A desolate, dreary apparatchik of Soviet demagoguery, one feels the oppression that permeates this Eastern European country. There is a miasma over it that reeks of something evil and powerful. The descriptive language used by the author is quite evocative, making the book highly atmospheric. Although the action at the end of the book may strain credulity at times, it does not diminish the enjoyment the reader will derive from reading this book. On the contrary, it will keep the reader riveted to its pages.