WAY OF THE WOLF (2003), by E. E. Knight, is Book One of the Vampire Earth series. Set in 2065, it combines alien invasion, post-apocalyptic civilization, and vampirism. For 43 years, our world has suffered under the reign of the Kurian Order. This fictional universe includes, in effect, two kinds of vampires. The Kurians, capable of disguising themselves in illusionary forms but revealed near the end of the novel as vaguely octopus-like in their true shape, live on the psychic energy of human auras. Most human beings never see a Kurian, though. The alien masters prey on Earth's population through their Reapers, humanoid creatures with long tongues that probe into a victim's body and suck blood from the heart. The Reaper feeds on the blood and transmits the aura energy to its master. A Kurian can own several Reapers, but it's speculated that they can actively control only one at at time. Reapers, like traditional vampires, are extremely hard to kill. Decapitation or destroying the brain works best. Quislings, human traitors who make deals with the aliens for their own safety and profit, also serve the Kurians. In addition, the aliens construct Grogs, artificially grown organic creatures, to work for them.
Large areas of North America are dominated by Kurians, but human societies maintain their independence in some regions, such as the Ozark Free Territory. They have help from the mysterious, powerful Lifeweavers, an extraterrestrial species of which Kurians are a degenerate, corrupted offshoot. In the southern part of the former United States, forces of resistance comprise three kinds of fighters, Bears (the heavy infantry), Wolves (scouts, couriers, and guerrilla fighters), and Cats (covert spies and saboteurs). This first novel focuses on the Wolves. Protagonist David Valentine, sole survivor of a family slaughtered by Reapers when he was eleven, grows up to become a Wolf. Like all his comrades, he receives from a Lifeweaver "wizard" an initiation that bestows enhanced endurance, reflexes, and sensory perception. David is a sympathetic, believable character, brave and decent. The story builds toward its suspenseful climax as he has to infiltrate Kurian territory and pose as the prospective fiance of the daughter of a farm family. He's beginning to fall in love with her in earnest when her uncle, a prominent Quisling who's supposed to be protecting the family, betrays them. David ends up sneaking into the nightmarish cityscape of Kurian-ruled Chicago, where the Loop has become the dumping ground for human prey no longer under the masters' protection, and the Zoo offers access to every imaginable perversion and cruel entertainment. The novel includes wilderness survival sequences, well-crafted fight scenes (in the sense that I could usually follow what was going on, although normally I don't much like action scenes), absorbing information about how the human remnant lives and how society has changed in the wake of the old world's collapse, and tantalizing glimpses of the biology and culture of the aliens.
The book contains a helpful glossary, and the series has a website:
Margaret L. Carter