Harry Keogh has returned from the parallel world of the Wamphyri with his Necroscope powers hypnotically removed by his vampire son, Harry Jr. He can no longer speak to the dead or go teleporting through time and space via the Mobius continuum.
If this wasn’t bad enough his new boss is trying to murder him, he is being stalked by a Soviet assassin, and the dead are rising from their graves to leave him messages on his lawn, arranged in pieces of dry stone walling.
Meanwhile, in Romania, a group of American students have hired a guide to take them to a ruined castle, rumoured to have been the home of an ancient vampire. The consequence of this will come as no surprise.
It doesn’t take Harry long to realise that the disappearance of two E-branch agents in Greece is the work of resurrected vampire Janos Ferenczy, a nasty piece of work even by vampire standards.
Harry must regain his powers in order to battle Janos, but how?
Put so baldly it seems like a terrible plot when in actuality, like the rest of the Necroscope books, it’s a glorious slice of late British pulp fiction; highly entertaining, compelling, and very readable.
Lumley’s kept the human and vampire sex scenes to a bare minimum here, for which I am thankful. Like Guy N Smith, Lumley no doubt considered gratuitous rumpy pumpy to be an additional salacious treat for his readers. Maybe it was at the time, but these days they read as a little awkward and dated.
It’s always a problem to properly categorise this series since the vampires themselves have an interesting and scientifically rational premise for their existence, as does the Mobius Continuum. It’s difficult to balance that with the premise of ‘souls’ hanging about in limbo, however. This was not so much of a problem in previous volumes but Lumley muddies the waters here by introducing further supernatural elements. Janos, it seems, has learned to raise the dead – not via some innate genetic talent – but through magic spells and incantations. This pushes the internal balance between the rational and the supernatural a little too far and seems like a device introduced to assist with what is a rushed denouement.
Nevertheless, Lumley is under-recognised for his very original take on the vampire life-cycle and his contribution to the sub-genre.
The sequel to Smith’s cult novel ‘Night of The Crabs‘ begins when a Norwegian captain – ruminating on the problems he has with his angina – is awakened by a fierce banging on his cabin door.
Suddenly we are whisked away to an Australian island whose fishermen are suffering the predations of Japanese poachers with superior fishing technology and weapons.
Klin, a fit but antisocial fisherman, decides to strike back at the Japanese, shooting at their boat and killing one of the crew.
On his way back he sees, to his disbelief, a crab the size of a car.
News of this sighting reaches the British authorities and Professor Cliff Davenport sets off for Australia, leaving his wife Pat at home. This is probably just as well since their unwholesome and highly detailed sexual shenanigans in the first book were rather more than one needed or expected in a giant crab adventure.
Smith’s sexual scenes are confined to the exploits of a rich nymphomaniac who manages to seduce Klin, plus a big game hunter and a bank robber on the run.
Smith seems to be slightly less graphic with the sexual narrative in this, although just as surreal. Klin spends a great deal of time, for instance, wandering the island attempting to hide inappropriate erections in his fisherman’s pants.
Inevitably the crabs invade the island and attack the hotel, during which Smith throws literary caution to the wind and introduces a sub-plot involving a murder and a suitcase full of stolen money.
It only remains for the Professor and Klin to try and discover the spawning ground of the crabs before the next full moon when mating and egg-laying will begin.
The denouement is perhaps a tad rushed, and the murder is quickly solved and dealt with.
I’m a little disappointed that the crabs did not return to the Welsh coast. There was something quite profoundly fascinating about Wales being invaded by man-eating giant crabs. It’s one of those juxtapositions of two diverse concepts that often works really well. Transferring the action to Australia lessens the impact since Australia already has its quota of deadly predators. The most dangerous thing Wales can offer is probably a vexed sheep.
On the whole though, I loved it. Smith deals in complete stereotypes and is a forerunner of the current fad for giant/mutant shark movies and their ilk.
As for the Norwegian fishing captain, we never hear from him again. I hope his angina passed off. It’s worrying me.
It’s a very odd thing to come to terms with, but there’s something very cosy about Lumley’s work. Maybe it’s a nostalgia for simpler times when there were good people and bad people (on both sides of the Iron Curtain) and there was an Iron Curtain.
Maybe it’s because one knows it’s all going to be all right at the end of the novel – at least until the next one – or maybe it’s because Lumley’s world harks back to an era earlier than the Nineteen Eighties. There’s something very quaintly dated about E-Branch which is more Bletchley Park than a Secret Intelligence Department of the Nineteen Eighties.
E-Branch is of course the British Government’s ESPer division, a group of people with paranormal powers set up to counter the USSR’s own paranormal division.
Michael ‘Jazz’ Simmons is a non-ESP member of British Intelligence and in Perchorsk, Russia, investigating a ravine, the bottom of which has been coated with lead.
Simmons is captured and taken into the base below the lead shielding where he discovers the truth. A botched attempt by the USSR to employ Star Wars laser technology resulted in a malfunction which caused the pent up laser energy to create a ‘grey hole’, a gleaming sphere suspended within a cavern which permits a one-way trip for organic beings from our Earth to a parallel world, or from there to here.
The other world is the world of the Wamphyri, and some specimens have already traveled through to our world.
Now Khuv, the security chief in charge of Perchorsk, is going to send Jazz Simmons through.
Harry Keogh is back after five years in the wilderness searching for his wife and young son. They do not appear to be in the world of the living or the dead.
Darcy Clarke, now in charge of E-Branch, finds Jazz Simmons’ disappearance equally baffling as jazz was being monitored by an E-Branch sensitive, and connects it to the disappearances of Harry’s family.
The narrative then alternates between events here and in the world of the Wamphyri.
It’s a much stronger novel than Necroscope II – Wamphyri and allows Lumley to examine what Wamphyri life might be like if these lone predators had to live and share resources with each other.
If nothing else this series is a wonderful reinvention of pulp fiction, and one gets the impression (by some kind of literary osmosis) that Lumley loved writing this stuff just as much enjoyed reading it. It was never going to win any Hugo awards but to be honest, given the choice of reading one or two of their less justifiable nominations and these, I’d go for the Wamphyri every time.
One feels that Lumley regretted having killed off Harry Keogh in the first novel, ‘Necroscope‘, and felt duty bound to bring him back. Harry is not exactly dead but in an incorporeal state wandering around in the Moebius continuum while tethered psychically to his unborn son.
Much of the narrative is given over to the backstories of Faethor and Thibor Ferenczy, ancient vampires of Romania. Thibor, one will recall from ‘Necroscope I’ is the one from whom Boris Dragosani received his vampire egg.
This is not the only way however that vampires can create new vampires. Following a skiing accident, Georgina and Ilyan Bodescu end up on top of Thibor’s grave. Ilyan is dead, but Georgina is alive and pregnant. While she lies there unconscious the insidious pseudopods of Thibor’s vampire flesh enter her body and infect the unborn child.
And so, in England, Yulian Bodescus grows up and inevitably draws the attention of the UK E-branch who elect to contact their Russian counterparts to fight against a common foe, aided by the ghostly presence of Harry Keogh.
The good guys have to battle both vampires and the KGB, which makes this part-horror, part spy thriller with a little SF rationale thrown in for good measure. Lumley’s vampires are symbiotic beasties that live within the human body, giving the host strength and longevity in return for blood, although here Lumley slightly confuses the issue with Yulian’s christening, an Omen type scene, which seems to suggest a supernatural religious element, given that the baby so vehemently did not want to be baptised that storms erupted and the vicar died of shock. Logically, it should not matter to these vampires whether they are baptised or not.
Lumley orchestrates the entire shooting-match very well and pulls the threads together into a satisfactory denouement. The author, for all his faults – this novel in particular is a little overburdened with characters, many of whom are one-dimensional – has a solid fan base. Although the Necroscope books will never be thought of as great literature, Lumley has certainly brought some new blood and a novel concept to the vampire genre.
Roger Locke is a successful New York composer of stage musicals and popular sings who decides to buy himself a farm as an investment. The house is decrepit and stands beside a stagnant lake. He decides to spend the night in his new home but awakens to find a woman in his bed beside him who holds a knife to him in the darkness while he in turn grips a braid of her hair. She warns him to leave the house and he realises that she has used the knife to cut off the braid of hair he was holding, and has disappeared.
Meanwhile, his young cousin, (who has overbearing parents with impossibly high standards) has married Verne, a young cabaret entertainer. Roger is initially appalled but decides to reserve judgment. As Verne is originally from a farming family he offers the couple the chance to run his farm for him and supervise the renovation of the house while he is in New York.
When he returns to the farm a collapsed dam has been rebuilt and the lake has widened and deepened. However, from then on he is visited by both the mysterious woman and an evil presence who claims that the woman belongs to him and vows that Locke will be destroyed.
It’s a very readable book with some engaging and interesting characters. Ingram certainly manages to produce an atmosphere of dread and unearthly unease when the thing (from another dimension, it appears) manifests itself, while at the same time establishing a growing bond between Locke and his mysterious – possibly immaterial – female visitor, slotting this novel into the tradition of supernatural romances. Indeed, there is much in this that echoes with Anne Rice’s novels of Lasher and the Mayfair Witches.
It’s also an interesting window on the subject of class distinction in the US at the time. Locke’s family appear to be well-to-do, if not fabulously wealthy. Locke himself is described as being the wealthiest in his family, although his money is self made.
Locke’s reaction to his cousin marrying a vaudeville entertainer might seem a little puzzling today but it’s clear that entertainers, particularly those that perform in bars or clubs were thought to be disreputable folk. Maybe Ingram was making a conscious effort to disabuse her public of that notion.
Her unconscious may well have been doing other things, since at the denouement, the main characters aim to flee the house in a car and escape the malign creature’s reach. No provision appears to have been made for evacuation of the domestic staff who would presumably have been left to their fate.