Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Fiction Genetic Engineering

Blood State

by (author) Raluca Balasa

Renaissance Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2020
Genetic Engineering, Political, Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


Three generations ago, the Modernist Mission arrived on the ice planet Tählti to find it already inhabited by the Firsts, humanoids who have evolved an antifreeze glycoprotein in their blood. With the next ice age nipping at everyone's heels, the Modernist government will do anything to get the protein - even experimenting on the Firsts in secret. Despite Modernist general Lucian Devereaux's best efforts, what began as a medical research facility to ensure his people's survival becomes a concentration camp. When an exiled vigilante learns this secret, he threatens to tell the world and spark a war between Modernist and First - a war neither can afford before the ice age. Surrounded by enemies, Lucian must figure out whom to trust, or neither subspecies will survive much longer.

About the author

Raluca Balasa holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Nevada, Reno. Her approach to writing is character oriented, often dealing with love/hate relationships, antiheroes, and antagonists who make you agree with them. Her short work has appeared in Andromeda Spaceways, Aurealis, Psychopomp, and Grimdark Magazine, among others.

Currently, Raluca works as a freelance editor and English teacher in the Toronto area. She loves instrumental music, pickles, and birds. She lives in Burlington, Ontario.

Raluca Balasa's profile page

Excerpt: Blood State (by (author) Raluca Balasa)

The air had grown heavy by the time Lucian pulled into his driveway. Beyond Keep Devereaux's iron gates, a path wound snake-like up the hill for nearly half a kilometre. Even from inside his vehicle, he heard the white pebbles crunching as he drove. His mansion loomed in the distance: five storeys of red brick with a sloping gable roof made for shedding snow on the rare instances the heat dome wasn't activated. Colourful ivy grew up the cracks between bricks: a relic from the Homeworld. Lucian didn't care for it. It required hiring a gardener, which meant one more person on the Devereaux premises with whom Lucian needed to interact.

He parked his car by the front doors, made of ten garish feet of petrified wood with a knocker shaped like the Devereaux mountain lion. Lucian shed his fox fur coat as he climbed the steps; the climate-control had been set too high again. The ivy stretched to new heights, roses bloomed and the fountain trickled nearby, yet Lucian felt himself withering. People are freezing to death in the streets while Devereaux lives in an artificial tropic. He'd had to silence more than one reporter on the matter. Worst of all was that he hated the blasted heat, hated all of it. Steam rolled off the premises into the moonlit night.

The house was dark and still. Lucian locked the door behind him. Tomorrow he'd make a list of everyone with the code to the gates and interrogate them individually. Another odious task, considering how much useless personnel his grandfather insisted they keep.

He glanced at the clock: midnight. Guaren would be asleep. If he was lucky, he wouldn't see Kiraz either. He unbuttoned the top of his shirt with one hand, bracing himself against the wall with the other. When was the last time he'd slept? The reflection in the mirror opposite him revealed red-streaked eyes and a gaunt, drawn face. He couldn't remember the last time he'd eaten, either.

Moonlight streamed through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Lucian caught a shadow stirring from the dining hall. He straightened, his senses narrowing in on the threat. His hand moved to the pistol at his belt.

But as he approached, he saw a light coming from the hall. Clinking glass sounded. "Damn it, stay still," grumbled a voice. Lucian relaxed his hold on his pistol as he drew up to the threshold.

The room was bathed in candlelight that glinted off the portraits on the walls, obscuring the figures trapped within them. At the end of the long mahogany table crouched Guaren Devereaux: the Explorer, First of the Modernists. In his wheelchair he seemed a shrunken old thing, his hands like gnarled tree stumps with their missing fingers, the effects of frostbite still showing on every exposed part of his skin. Light from the candelabrum above gleamed on his balding scalp as he struggled with the bottle of moonshine.

Lucian strode inside, then stopped by his grandfather. He waited without word or movement until Guaren set the bottle on the table and folded his hands in his lap. His lower lip trembled.

"Tell me," he said, as Lucian picked up the bottle and poured. "When my body fails completely? What then?"

Lucian placed the glass into Guaren's stump-like hands. Despite the heat in the house, his grandfather had draped a blanket over his legs. "There are options. Surgery, for one. Kidneys are simple to replace."

Guaren hacked a laugh. Lucian refrained from steadying his grandfather's hands as the latter brought the moonshine to his blackened lips.

"And who will give me a kidney? You?"

"Don't be ridiculous. We'll make one in the Cliffhanger's chemical vats."

Guaren lapsed into silence. Lucian pulled out a chair and sat by him. Guaren wouldn't be rushed when he had something to say, and Lucian wouldn't rush him.

"You contradict yourself, my boy. Don't look at me like that. Yes, a boy you are still. What do you think the public whispers when you Whitelist their disabled relatives but not your own?"

Lucian exhaled. "Grandfather, I'm rather tired."

"You can't ignore this."

"Why do you pester me? You're a national hero: a legend. Do you enjoy hearing me say it?"

Guaren's black-spotted face darkened. His eyes had retained their lucidity throughout the years, silver like Lucian's own and as clear as the moonshine in his glass. One thing he'd never discussed, would never discuss, with Guaren was what would happen when they, too, dimmed.

"Your failure to apply your own laws is what hinders you. You're selfish."

"If you want to go live in the Decacia ghettos with the cripples and madmen, be my guest," Lucian snapped. "You'll make a laughingstock of our name, but what's that to me? Go, and rid me of the burden of Devereaux."

Guaren sipped his drink, using both stumps to lift it. Lucian was reminded of a child with a spill-proof cup. "Never again, Lucian."

Lucian stood. "You were incapacitated, and I had to make a decision."

"You knew my wishes."

"They were recorded on no document that I could find."

Guaren sent the glass shattering to the ground by Lucian's feet. Lucian didn't move or flinch. "You knew my wishes."

Two heartbeats, three. Lucian bent to pick up the shards. One of them cut into his finger, and he marvelled at the redness of his own blood, the way it continued beading on his fingertip even though he felt nothing. From the corner of his eye he watched Guaren struggling to still his shaking hands, clenching and unclenching them as if that could bring back the power they'd once had. If it hadn't been for Guaren's astonishing reflexes in the control room, the Modernists would have never made it through the asteroid field that had destroyed their satellite dish three generations ago. The Explorer had been the one to see them safely landed upon this planet, with the battered Mothership still orbiting as a reminder.

"The people of Tählti, Modernist and First, need you," Lucian said. "Their love for you is the only thing that has ever united them." He made a fist around the broken glass, but all he felt was the warmth of his blood. No matter what he did, he couldn't escape the blasted heat. "You call me selfish, and perhaps I am, but everything I know I've learned from you. Unless you add a Mercy Kill clause to your will, I will continue doing what's best for the nation."

"You know I can't do that."

"I could transcribe it for you, if you'd like."

He looked up and held his grandfather's glare. Yes, he knew very well why Guaren couldn't do that. House Devereaux: Leadership, Strength and Virtue. Mercy Kill clauses had been drafted for the Whitelisted too crippled, sick or wretched to go on: a bit of mercy from a world that wouldn't let them live in comfort, but might help them die in it. Guaren couldn't remain true to his house's claims while giving up on his own life.

"You need to teach them," Guaren whispered, "to need you. The Explorer is wasting away. The Colonist is dead. It's time to introduce the Leader."

Lucian stood. "I'm carrying this burden as best I can."

"The burden of our house is not yours to bear alone. If you had an heir..."

In a moment of impulse, Lucian considered throwing the glass to the floor like his grandfather had done, but he wasn't Guaren Devereaux, and that was the problem. Instead he tightened his hold on the shards until blood splashed the hardwood.

Editorial Reviews

"Raluca Balasa has penned a dark, gripping tale of colonialist and indigene as the world around them begins to freeze. Blood State is a slick, twisty, chess game of a novel that sucked me in and held me until the last page." - Stephen Graham King, author of A Congress of Ships

"I was completely entranced by Blood State's tale of competing factions struggling for survival on a frozen planet. Raluca Balasa delivers reams of political intrigue, complex and conflicted characters, and gripping action sequences, all in a setting both brutal and exotic. Blood State is a terrific sci-fi novel by an exciting and talented young writer." - David Anthony Durham, author of The Acacia Trilogy

"Blood State intrigued me with its timely premise of state-sanctioned violence and intercultural tensions, however, I was pleased to discover that it also delivers on pulse-pounding action and complex characters. A marvelous read!" - Elizabeth Hirst, author of The Face in the Marsh and Distant Early Warning

"Raluca Balasa's Blood State crackles with political intrigue and scientific mystery. The people known as Firsts are immune to the planet Tählti's deadly cold; the Modernists, more recent arrivals, are not. An ice age is coming. On this deceptively simple foundation, Balasa builds a rich and utterly compelling story. Secrets and lies, mistaken identity, reluctant leaders and tyrants, bonds made, twisted or shattered--and driving it all, the fierce and implacable cold. I won't be alone in my impatience to return to Tählti, and the people fighting to survive there. Congratulations to Balasa on a stunning debut." - Caitlin Sweet, author of The Pattern Scars

"With its vividly realized alien world, complex characters, and fast-paced political conflict, Blood State is a book you won't want to put down. This gripping and suspenseful thriller -- seamlessly combining ecology, medical mystery, and clan rivalry -- gives new meaning to the term 'cold war,' and heralds Raluca Balasa as a major new writer." -Susan Palwick, award-winning author of The Necessary Beggar.