Monday, May 10, 2021

"Ritual in Blood" by Doug Masters (1986)

Ritual of Blood was the sixth English translation of the TNT series to be released in the US. It’s far tamer than the titular first book in the series—much less sex and violence—but also way more confusing and sloppily plotted. There are still some great moments that capture the appeal of the books—extreme action pushed to surreal heights—but, overall, they seem to be lost amidst a barely intelligible narrative. 

TNT—Anthony Nicholas Twin—is a Scottish reporter who, after being exposed to a nuclear blast, has superpowers, such as eyes that can see in the dark, a body that can heal itself, super-sonic hearing, and an inexhaustible erection. In Ritual of Blood, he is on his way to a dinner party when all the guests, including the children, are slaughtered. Meanwhile, the richest men in world have been disappearing shortly after marriage, along with their money. It is believed that a secret female organization, Matrix, is behind the disappearances. TNT teams up with his arch-nemesis, Arnold Benedict, to go undercover as billionaire “John Wayne,” to marry into the organization and get to the bottom of it.

Most of that plot I gleaned from the back cover. The rest of the book didn’t do much to clarify what was going on. Matrix, it seems, sort of like the evil network in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru books, with a dose of fantastic monsters straight out of Doc Savage. Unfortunately, it’s hard to figure out what is happening when new characters are introduced almost every chapter, and some of them are the same people using different names. Strangely, important moments—such as TNT and Arnold’s teaming up—happens off-page in between chapters. Geographically, it doesn’t hold together, either, as the dungeon in the opening chapter is located in New Hampshire, but the finale takes place in a dungeon in Arizona, and it’s not clear if they’re supposed to be the same one, or if there are multiple Matrix dungeons.

The book might not make sense—but there are some great moments. Like TNT having sex on a glass bed suspended from a helicopter over midtown Manhattan. Or how he has to escape from a labyrinth while plaster rains down on him and threatens to drown him into a rock-hard grave. Or how Arnold Benedict spends the finale in a suit of armor, a slapstick moment that is never explained (nor fully exploited). Or the bonkers ending in which TNT fights an army of spider-people and actual spiders. There also may or may not be a dragon? The word was used to describe the villain, but maybe it was a metaphor, or maybe it was literal. That sort of sums up the world of TNT—it could be exaggeration or it could be reality, there’s no difference in this book.

Despite its problems, Ritual of Blood is strangely compelling. In its more extreme moments, it approaches a level of surrealism that is genuinely and singularly bonkers. Somehow, after this book, I’m still curious to see what other obstacles await TNT in the other entries. 

3 comments:

  1. Interesting! Do you happen to know who the cover artist was?

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately the artist is uncredited. I'll keep looking and let you know if I find out!

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  2. 9 books in the series - 6 in English - 3 in French.

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