What if taxes were paid through blood withdrawals? What if tax evasion was a crime punishable with imprisonment and enforced by the Bloodbusters? What if donating blood was illegal?
In a grotesque Rome, BloodBuster Alan Costa falls in love with Anissa Malesano, a compulsive donor for AN underworld organisation who gives her blood to anyone in need.
As a web of deceit and treachery spreads wide around Alan, he begins to wonder if he can trust his colleagues or even his own boss. When Anissa is jailed for tax evasion, Alan is faced with a choice that could cost him everything.
Excellent novel from my Italian friend Francesco, with his signature deep interest in our near future. Satirical and dark in turns, it won Italy's Urania Award, and is available in a translation by Sally McCorry. – Lavie Tidhar
"Full of savage humour, Francesco Verso imagines a tax system in Italy based upon blood. Amazingly this has nothing to do with actual zombies (to bend a bit the word "actual"). Weirdly, BloodBusters is plausible, and powerfully written, a high-spirited page-turner thanks to a great translation by Sally McCorry. Definitely this is the book to read after a holiday in Rome (though maybe not before). I shan't forget in a hurry Verso's Intravenous Revenue or the haemergency sirens and flashers of the taxbulance."– Ian Watson, author of the screen story for Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Rule number one: The heart is an organ that pumps blood, not emotions.
I tighten the strap around my arm and it digs into the skin. I'm dripping sweat, bent in two on the sofa. I hit the muscle twice with my fist and open the nickel-plated box. Inside is my Pravaz, my beautiful shiny chrome hypodermic. I take it out and choose a medium-sized needle, I don't want to hit the same tired old vein that doesn't cooperate anymore
I scrabble about amongst the gadgets strewn over the table looking for the iPod remote control and touch the play button. The first song on the play list is The Specials with "A message to you, Rudy"
I like the way the rounded edges of the grip fit into my hand, it feels like an extension of my arm. In comparison all those single-use plastic syringes, including the latest silicon models with their Quick-Fit hook/unhook needle bayonet systems, are no more than toys, cheap disposable rubbish, a sign of our lazy and comfortable times.
Another scrabbling hunt, another remote found and I attempt to switch the air-conditioning on. Again and again. Nothing. I get up and thump it, but it wants to have nothing to do with cooling the thick hot air. It doesn't work and I've found out in the worst way possible, on a suffocatingly hot day, my back wet with sweat and beads of perspiration dripping into my eyes. I give up.
I grab a 450ml plastic bag from the coffee-table drawer. Liquid gold, so to speak. A guarantee of happiness, satisfaction in the safe.
I'm ready to stick the needle in. I'm ready to go.
I glance upwards to the living room ceiling and the poster of Mexico up there seems to be taking the piss. When we visited Tulum, Cecilia and I were a couple worthy of the term, but now we hardly even remember to send each other the odd text message.
I shake the syringe and flick the barrel twice. If I had Cecilia here with me now, I'd shoot with her, not the needle. Still, I'm not going to moan about how things went... We split up, I came to terms with it, and it was better that way. No fighting, no troubles, no regrets.
I drive the needle into my arm gently, the hole makes a reddish shadow on my skin which looks like a bruise, or better still, the type of bastard boil that occasionally appears where the sun don't shine… You get the picture. Don't tell me you don't know what I'm talking about.
It's funny how some ideas lead on one from the other and distract you. Years ago I used to stare at my arm while I drew blood, but now that it's all become one single automatic gesture, I prefer to concentrate on the barrel of the syringe. People with experience know that this is where the good stuff is going on.
Take my word for it: I'm an expert on puncture holes. Those that care about us call us punchers... Come to think of it, so do those who, deep down, envy us, hate us, and see us as a sign of how the system is degenerating.
Degenerating huh!... It's not our fault if things are going downhill, is it? I pull back the plunger slowly, watching the ridged end sliding up the glass cylinder. As soon as I finish withdrawing the first bagful I feel weak and drained like after running, like after a breakneck speed chase... Who needs to trip when you can have this end-of-the-world rush of ecstasy and excitement? Despite appearances what I'm doing is simply a precaution: certain sayings never go out of fashion "a syringe every thirtieth day, keeps the taxman at bay."
And anyway, I hardly feel the prick on my arm, anymore.