Fred Blythe

Fred Blythe is probably the most sympathetic of the characters even before his conversion. He was a bit of a lost soul when he served with Narain in the trenches of France. Perhaps "lost" isn't the right description. He was like so many of the soldiers of that war: Trying to be patriotic, fighting for a cause, yet not really sure what he was fighting for.

Blythe was a truck driver in London before the war. Lower class. Nearly engaged to be married. He was a gentle man, a decent guy, who enlisted and was sent to France, given a gun and told to shoot at people. He was not a coward but even the bravest of soldiers could be worn down by the trench conditions. So while he tried to be a good soldier he wasn't always successful.

This was food for Captain Reginald Jameson's sadistic streak and Jameson never wasted an opportunity to torment him.

In fact, when Blythe was introducing Narain and his new friend Vivek to their commanding officer, Jameson took the opportunity to put him in his place by tripping him into the mud, payback for Blythe accidentally getting mud on Jameson's uniform.

Narain hates a bully as he says often and he readily saw one in Jameson. It is perhaps this reason that he became close to Blythe though with Fred's naturally sunny  nature, befriending him would be difficult not to do.

As the months wore on, Blythe assured him that he would see his sister Ujaali and all his family again. Yet Blythe himself succumbed more and more to shell shock, a common condition in that war. Mortar shells fell at any moment, tearing up the ground with their horrible explosions. Sometimes the banging went on for hours, leaving men literally shocked by the deafening thuds.

In fact, the last time Narain saw Blythe, before the unit is ordered to go "over the top" of the trenches and into No Man's Land, Fred was on the verge of breaking. It was Narain who helped him find his courage to join the other soldiers as they climbed the ladders out of the trenches.

And it could be the shell shock that caused the conversion to go wrong when Blythe was attacked by the feral vampires feasting on the dead and dying that night.

When Blythe awakes from a decades long hibernation, it's too a very different world, he himself a very different being. He is lost somewhere between sentience and feral and even killing the construction workers digging up the French countryside to make way for housing, disturbing his sleep in the process.

This is the incident, the killer a mystery to authorities, that lures Jameson to go in search of the being, unaware that it was his old victim Blythe who was the culprit. The attacks were done during the day. While Jameson recognizes the style of the attack he's fascinated by the possibility that a vampire was able to conduct it during the day. With an expert in vampirism on his payroll, james can't help wonder if the vampire's abilities could be transferred to all vampires. So he hunts him down, confines him and turns him into a lab rat held at his Los Angeles lab. That it is Private Fred Blythe only makes the situation that much more enjoyable to Jameson.

While in captivity, it seemed that the longer he was conscious the clearer Fred's mind became. He saw the horror of the experimenting Jameson's people conducted but there was little he could do to stop it.

Blythe truly is a man out of time. Unlike Narain and others who had time to acclimate to their condition as the years went by, the knowledge of what he was was forced upon Blythe during a time that he could barely imagine possible. 

When Cassie, who meets him later, asks if he knows what a cell phone is, Blythe responds that the last phone he used was the size of a corgi. He is out of his element as he was in the trenches.

I enjoyed the interplay between Cassie and Blythe as she takes a man who can barely talk and helps him get reconnected with the man he used to be. Cassie has a tendency to become fascinated by the logistics of a situation, speaking to Blythe more as if he's a specimen until he points this out. She can of course understand his discomfort with that tone considering how he had been for many months treated like a specimen.

I had no idea where Blythe's character was going to go and when it went there, it really surprised me. One nice thing was that the friendship between Narain and Blythe, built up during their time in the trenches, withstood the test of a very long time.

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