Book Review by Daniel Olivas
The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
By Mario Acevedo
368 pp., $13.95 (paperback)
In his debut novel, Mario Acevedo lets us know early on that his protagonist, Felix Gomez, is nothing like your father’s private investigator: “I don’t like what Operation Iraqi Freedom has done to me. I went to the war a soldier; I came back a vampire.”
We’re immediately thrown into the hell of war as we follow then-Sergeant Gomez and his infantry division, “still ass-deep in combat along the Euphrates valley,” searching out fedayeen guerrillas in a village south of Karbala. Gomez spots a group of what he believes to be the enemy apparently armed with RPGs or other weapons. Based on his confirmation, the division’s lieutenant gives the signal to open fire and they do. When the lieutenant orders cease fire, Gomez’s “heart pounded in euphoric victory” and he acknowledges that the “moment was exhilarating….” But the thrill quickly dissipates as Gomez and his comrades discover that they’ve just massacred a family. Only a young girl shows signs of life and Gomez tries to stop the bleeding from a hole near her navel. But it’s hopeless.
In a guilty daze with blood on his hands, Gomez wanders until he comes upon a stranger with eyes that shone like a wolf’s; the man immediately controls Gomez with nothing more than his gaze. Gomez confesses about what he has done and that he wants to be punished for his crime. The stranger obliges and bites Gomez on the neck. Gomez feels the transformation occurring and asks what’s happening. The stranger answers: “…I’ve given you what you wanted. A punishment even worse than death. I’ve given you immortality. As a vampire.”
Back in the states, Gomez makes a living as a private investigator using special contact lenses and plenty of makeup and sunblock to venture out in the daylight. Gomez is a vampire with a conscience: he refuses to drink human blood because of his guilt over the massacre. He makes due on animal blood which slightly diminishes some of his vampire powers such as scaling walls and transforming into a wolf. But even in this weakened state, Gomez still outpaces humans with supernatural powers so that his private investigation practice becomes almost legendary.
Gomez’s successes lead to a lucrative job offered by his old college roommate, Gilbert Odin, who now is the Assistant Manager for Environmental Restoration at Rocky Flats, which had been a nuclear weapons plant. It seems that the Department of Energy needs to uncover the cause of an outbreak of nymphomania among female personnel at the plant. To complicate matters, the vampire society known as nidus, or the web, has its own investigation going into a deadly group of vampire hunters who seem to show up every time there’s an outbreak of nymphomania. This setup allows Acevedo to take us on a wild ride—often with a wink and a nod—delving into everything from lying war mongers and vengeful scientists to Homeland Security cover-ups and alien abduction.
And let’s not forget that vampire stuff. Acevedo gleefully debunks vampire lore and creates new rules of the game with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. In the end, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats delivers fast-paced fun topped off with wry humor and dead-on social commentary. One wonders who will play Felix Gomez in the screen adaptation.