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
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