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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer


The Empire of Fear 

By Brian Stableford
Carroll & Graf,  390 pp, 1988

I paid two dollars for this book at a used book sale, and it was worth every penny. This may be the worst vampire novel I have ever read.

I don't say this lightly - I've read countless vampire stories, but right now I can't think of a worse one. What really stinks is that the premise is exciting and promising, but Stableford does little to nothing with it.

It's the early 1600s. England is ruled by the Empire of Gaul, established by Charlemagne and currently ruled by Richard the Lion Hearted. The cool thing is that Charlemagne and Richard are vampires. Vlad Tepes, also known as Dragyula, rules central Europe, or Wallachia.  Vampires exist in Africa but do not rule, while the Muslims of the Middle East have battled back repeated vampire attempts at conquest. The New World has not yet been discovered.

Edmund Cordery, mechanician for Prince Richard, works to destroy the vampire empire and gain freedom for the common men who chafe under their tyrannical rule. He has obtained a dangerous plague from Africa, injects himself with it, and sleeps with the Lady Carmilla, a beautiful vampire lady (all vampire ladies are babes). Carmilla drinks his tainted blood and dies of the plague, though few other vampires do in the epidemic that ravages the human population. Edmund's son, Noell, is whisked away to a convent, where he studies about vampires.

Up to this point, the book isn't bad. But after this, it slows to a plodding and dull pace. Noell and his monk mentor hook up with a pirate, go into exile in Africa, journey to the continent's heart to discover the secret of vampirism, discover that vampires are created by a mixture of human blood and - get this - vampire semen. The pirate, his saucy wench, and the monk mentor become vampires, but not Noell, though he tries. Noell and friends then lets the secret loose on the world, create an army of vampires to challenge Gaul and Wallachia, and then lose to Gaul and Wallachia. The Epilogue is even more dull, as Stableford introduces a moody teen who can't help feeling sorry for himself because he also cannot be vampire. The epilogue takes place in 1983, in which all humans strive to become vampires after they've married and spat out a kid or two. The kids grow, reproduce, become vampires, and that's how the human population grows. Those who cannot become vampires are cursed and pitied, like this poor teen. But he meets the pirate's saucy wench on a beach, and becomes her lover. We also learn that the vampire origins came from an asteroid that crashed in Africa 13,000 years ago.

Not only is the book boring, but it's stupid. I'm no vampire purist, but Stabledord's vampires bear little resemblance to the sharp-toothed creature of the night. They have no fangs, venture out during the day, aren't any stronger than humans (though they heal quick and can control pain), and by the 1980s don't even drink blood - they take pills instead.

It's all lame, it's all corny, it's all dull, dull, dull. Don't even bother checking this stinker out of the library.

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