Themes: / vampires / steampunk / fantasy /
1870. A time known as The Great Killing.The vampire clans arose and slaughtered humanity with unprecedented carnage in the northern parts of the world. Millions perished; millions were turned into herd animals. The great industrialized civilizations of the world were left in ruin. A remnant fled south to the safety of the ever-present heat which was intolerable to vampires. There, blending with the local peoples, they rebuilt their societies founded on human ingenuity, steam and iron.The year is now 2020. The Equatorian Empire, descendant of the British Empire, stretches from Alexandria to Cape Town. Princess Adele, quick witted, combat trained, and heir to the throne, is set to wed the scion of the American Republic, a man she has never met. Their marriage will cement an alliance between the nations and set the stage for war against the vampires in an attempt to retake the north. Prepared to do her duty, she finds herself caught in a web of political intrigue and physical danger. The Greyfriar, a legendary vampire hunter from the north, appears ready to rescue the Princess and return her home—but he harbors secrets of his own. As the power struggle between the vampires and humans increase, Adele and the Greyfriar are caught in the middle, on the run, being hunted and fighting for not just their own lives, but for the future of humanity.
The Greyfriar is a surprisingly good book. I listened to this book mainly because I like James Marsters as a narrator and wasn’t sure what to expect from the story. The authors came up with an interesting way of treating vampires that thankfully does not involve making them out to be some sex symbols as seems to be the norm these days. The story makes use of several familiar tropes but they are combined to good effect and in such a way that the story was quite good. The authors’ prose and choices of wording give the book an aged tone that fits the setting of the story.
The premise of the story is that vampires attacked in great numbers just before humans had the industrial revolution and much of the human populace has been wiped out. There are some surviving empires/governments that have lasted the 100 or so years since the attack and mankind is ready to go to war to reclaim what they’ve lost. The story is not urban fantasy but more like…vampire steampunk as best I can describe it. The humans aren’t so advanced in technology that they completely outclass the vampires and the vampires aren’t so powerful that humans can’t have some successes in fighting back.
Vampires in the Vampire Empire series are not exactly your normal vampire – and that’s a good thing. Much of what you and I would think are traits of vampires turn out to be silly human superstitions cultivated over a century of fighting and/or staying isolated from them. They don’t die in the sun, they have retractable claws and fangs, can change their body mass so they can fly, can heal rapidly, etc. These traits leave the authors plenty of room for aerial fights on air ships and all kinds of fun scenes.
While I liked how the groundwork for the world was set up, the characters themselves were probably the weakest part for me. Everyone except for a few of the main characters were fairly one dimensional and caricatures of the proper English nobility, the American cowboy, etc. The main characters make up for this in how they grow through the course of the book but man. The majority of humans harbor some strange prejudices on vampires that’s kind of hard to believe (the biggest for me was that they seem to think they’re not much more intelligent than animals). This was a stretch just because they’re clearly in contact with people who know better and have plenty of evidence to the contrary. These were minor complaints and I’m still looking forward to starting the next book.
On the audio side of things, James Marsters does not disappoint. I have enjoyed his performances in the Dresden series and you will hear many similar voices to what he uses there. His characters are easily distinguishable and his narration is clear.
Posted by Tom Schreck
The SFFaudio Podcast #277 – Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker; read by Robert White (of LibriVox). This is an unabridged reading of the story (30 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and John Feaster.
Today’s podcast is sponsored by Downcast, a wonderful podcast app for iPhone and iPad.
Talked about on today’s show:
1914, Dracula’s Guest And Other Weird Stories by Bram Stoker, our SPONSOR: Downcast, an app for iPhone and iPad, a super-customizable podcast app, Mark Maron’s WTF, Comedy Bang! Bang!, The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast and the premium feed, swapping out of the Music app (aka the old iPod app), an incredibly intuitive app with deep features, download on the go, and lock episodes, awesome, is the narrator Jonathan Harker?, if Dracula wasn’t in the title…, Leslie S. Klinger, a sore throat, having Dracula in the background, Countess Dolingen of Gratz, Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu, Styria, Austria, shout-outs used to be called homages or allusions, striking images, “the dead travel fast”, the wolf itself, the spike or stake, knives, fully formed vampire features, Varney The Vampire, the soldiers, the figure on the road, what is Dracula’s motivation?, is he learning how to be English?, Walpurgisnacht, the “Borgo pass”, adaptations, enigmatic reactions and situations, rescue, Dracula is the puppet master behind virtually everything in the story, Dracula’s colonial mission, why is Dracula going to England?, a veneer of normalcy in Castle Dracula, They Thirst by Robert R. McCammon, Lifeforce, Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Lovecraft’s description of the plot of Dracula, The War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells, getting inside, “precious bodily fluids”, a threat from the East, The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft, a threat from a more ancient time, out of fairy tales, a desperate victory, omnipresent, the weather, vampires can control the weather, the white shroud of the snowstorm, non-epistolary approach to Dracula, evocative and visceral, explaining cheesecake, was there a Countess Dolingen?, The Games Of Countess Dolingen (1981), chilling stories, the women, a “he” being rescued, sexuality, the caress of the weather, bier, a whole set-piece, is the tomb scene a glamour?, a seduction, Anno Dracula by Kim Newman, counts and countesses, working class vampires, Eric S. Rabkin on vampirism and lycanthropy, the sailors are Dracula’s Big Mac, the Demeter, Walpurgis Night, are Dracula’s powers expanded on Walpurgisnacht?, superpowers added on the fly, the villagers are always right, The Dreams In The Witch-House, The Haunter Of The Dark, The Lurker In The Crypt, “The Thing In My Coffin”, shared tradition, tradition as superstition, the ancient extinction of the mega-fauna may have engendered a hunting ethos in the native North Americans, The Woman In Black by Susan Hill, Harker is sent by his boss to Transylvania, at the crossroads with the inarticulate driver, thousands of tiny eyes watching Jonathan Harker, is Countess Dolingen aware of Dracula’s plan?, “the dead travel fast”, Russian, a warning from a previous vampire slayer?, a left-handed compliment, the rod, unanswered questions, the lack of clarity makes it evocative, effective accidents, August Derleth-style, what do we really know about Socrates?, water elemental?, meaning was not the point but rather he intended effect, such a good story, a delicious bon-bon sitting on a silk pillow, “interminable”, Dracula’s Guest ought to always precede Dracula itself, had Dracula’s Guest been released as the first chapter of a novel today…
Posted by Jesse Willis
Flesh and Blood
By Daniel Dersch; read by Amy McFadden
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 4 March 2014
[UNABRRIDGED] – 7 discs; 8 hours
Themes: / Vatican / vampires / Nazis / horror / romance /
A veteran New York City journalist, Claire Hagen has learned not to trust everything she hears. So when her younger sister lands in a mental hospital after claiming a vampire is feeding off her blood, Claire is naturally skeptical. A search of her sister’s apartment convinces her: The delusions are a side effect of the drugs she discovers her sister had been taking.But a deeper investigation uncovers more than Claire bargained for. Why was a man who claimed to know her sister from an online vampire forum shot dead moments after Claire interviewed him? Why are her sister’s symptoms getting worse in the hospital? And why have agents from the Vatican taken a sudden interest in Claire?Consumed by doubt and growing paranoia, Claire barely has time to ponder her next move before a violent confrontation in her apartment changes everything. She quickly finds herself on the run with a mysterious stranger who says he wants to protect her but may not be quite what he seems. Can she trust him?
For a good portion of the story in this novel, I was entertained. But the longer the story progressed, the more detached and less interested I became. By the time the end rolled around, I just didn’t care about the characters. While various portions of the story intrigued me, the narrative’s main flow felt too streamlined, structured, and shallow. I also depart feeling that the storyline was compressed. This is fifty pounds of story jammed into a twenty-pound sack. But Daniel Dersch shows promise, and I will be curious to observe his writing improve. He already does what many of his contemporary counterparts fail to do, which is to have a subject performing a verb upon an object. Dersch’s sentence construction is pleasing, and for what it’s worth, this small attention to good writing practice aided my enjoyment factor.
I felt Clair Hagen was a little too stereotyped. She seems driven to prove her resourcefulness, but appears to yearn for a strong man. The “daddy” references got a little weird, but maybe we can chalk that up to this being a translated work. The chapters in this book denote a change in POV (point of view). At first I liked this alternating split narrative thing that Dersch pulls off. But the longer this unspooled, the shorter the chapters got, and all too soon the shortness of the intervals became a distraction.
Amy McFadden narrates the audiobook, and at first I struggled with her rhythm and delivery. In the beginning, I thought her voice was grating. But the longer I listened, the more I felt McFadden captured the essence of Clair. Somewhere in the middle, McFadden won me over, and I think she does a great job with this audiobook.
Fans of contemporary vampire stories will most likely enjoy this for what it is.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
First published in Harper’s Weekly November 10, 1894 this novella combines the two poles of Doyle’s personality – the skeptic and the dupe. Playing out like a combination of Guy de Maupassant’s The Horla and The Manchurian Candidate. The protagonist, Austin Gilroy, a professor of physiology, meets a woman at a party who can perform frightening feats of mesmerism.
Variously described as being a tale of a “psychic vampire” other editors and anthologists have classified it as “weird fiction” or “horror”
Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/7030
iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|
Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/621
iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|
And here’s an easy reading |PDF| version (41 pages)
Posted by Jesse Willis
Filed under: Audio Drama, New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals
Talked about on today’s show: Christmas-edition New Releases podcast; festivus; Seinfeld; Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War; pneumatic zeppelins (related to Led Zeppelin?) vs. non-pneumatic airships; Cherie Priest‘s Clockwork Century steampunk series; Gail Carriger‘s “tea-punk” Parasol Protectorate novels; Wizard of Oz: A Steampunk Adventure; HBO’s completely unrelated Oz television series; Seal Team 13, military vs. supernatural?; Lovecraftian horror vs. traditional horror; Call of Cthulhu role-playing game; World War Z; Overdraft: The Orion Exclusive; Jesse laments that neither Jenny nor Seth has seen Aliens; Sigourney Weaver; Gamadin: Word of Honor; Jesse loves audio drama; Night Vale; Blake’s 7; “audio drama is television or movies without pictures”; Visions of the Future now unabridged; limitations of the Star Wars spinoffs; R.A. Salvatore killed a beloved Star Wars character; Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey; a Star Wars Oedipus story?; When the World Shook by H. Rider Haggard; Haggard’s She; casual racism in turn-of-the-century fiction; Haggard is the English Edgar Rice Burroughs; Rumpole series (the actor narrates the audiobooks); Inspector Morse; Agatha Christie; Touch Me Eternally; X-Men; Silvered by Tanya Huff; are shape shifters the new vampires?; Charlaine Harris and True Blood; etymology of werewolf; were bat?; every Batman story has been done; Dangerous Women anthology; Lawrence Block; Legends anthologies; George R. R. Martin’s Dunk and Egg stories; Well of Echoes series; geomancy = crystal magic; ABC (the Australian one) book club; CSPAN’s Book TV; Reading Rainbow and the LaVar Burton revival; Herland; Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail and As Easy as ABC; Gungadin and “to carry the water”; Clark Gable; more on racism; White Man’s Burden; DreamScape Audio; The Poison Belt by Arthur Conan Doyle; sequel to The Lost World; similar to The Purple Cloud by M. P. Sheil; Jurassic Park; 1634 by David Weber and Eric Flint; time travel; George Guidall; Jonny Ive (and Seth’s bad Ive impression) read by Simon Vance; Chronicles of Light and Shadow by Liesel Schwartz; Waterlogged Holiday Collection; Kevin J. Anderson’s War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches; Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters; Star Trek pancakes attack; Connie Willis especially To Say Nothing of the Dog; Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome; Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit Will Travel; The Great Gatsby audio edition including Fitzgerald’s letters; Audible translating George R. R. Martin; Latin translations of Harry Potter; Call Down the Stars; metafiction; the prehistorical sub-genre; Clan of the Cave Bear; Ian Rutherford; James A. Michener; Harry Harrison; The Wonder Stick (spoiler: it’s a bow!); Jack London; A Quarter to Fear narrated by Mr. Jim Moon at Hypnogoria (Jesse actually bought it!); H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast; Audible Editor’s Picks; Audie Awards; Doctor Sleep by Stephen King won Audible Pick of the Year; The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker; American Gods by Neil Gaiman; Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia; The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Coraline by Neil Gaiman; Ender’s Game Alive; The Silo Saga; The Human Division by John Scalzi; The Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell; Zombie Fallout series by Mark Tufo; Peter Clines 14 and Ex-Heroes series; Roald Dahl’s Matilda narrated by Kate Winslet; tweeting coffee;
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #236 – The Hills Of The Dead by Robert E. Howard, read by Paul Boehmer (courtesy of Tantor Media’s The Savage Tales Of Solomon Kane). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (60 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, Matthew Sanborn Smith, and Bryan Alexander
Talked about on today’s show:
Second-to-last Solomon Kane story chronologically, “Red Shadows” and “Wings of the Night” close contenders for Solomon Kane stories, the latter featuring harpies from Jason and the Argonauts, history of Solomon’s staff explained in other stories, fetishes (not THAT kind!), joojoo stick, magical weapons, Wandering Star edition illustrated by Gary Gianni, comic book adaptations, vampire-slaying, story uncharacteristically well-plotted including foreshadowing, “plains and hills full of lions” oh my!, lion sleeping habits, “Africa is full of never-explained mysteries” excuses plot holes, prefigures Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Kate Beckinsale’s Underworld movies, one of few stories to depict ‘nation of vampires’, Kiss of the Vampire (film), Transylvania, homeopathic symbolism, sex sells, ‘Howardian damsel in distress’, voodoo, feminization of the jungle, homoerotic undertones, Howard biography Blood and Thunder by Mark Finn, post-Colonial critique, vampires in fiction oscillate between sexualized and homicidal, Stephen King slams Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight vampires, Nosferatu (relatively unknown at the time of this story’s writing) introduced the idea that sunlight kills vampires, the Devil as source of Kane’s lustful urges, “Howard doesn’t do metaphors very well”, vampire-zombie continuum, Howard as great visual writer, animal characteristics ascribed to Kull and Conan but not Kane, snake imagery (related to serpent in Garden of Eden?), Slave Coast, vultures, nature of the soul, “Rogues in the House” (written in one sitting while Howard had a headache), the dangers of over-interpreting Howard, Howard’s subconscious, early 20th-century magazines preoccupied with race, Cosmpolitan (it was once a literary magazine), race hierarchy, Solomon Kane less racist than Howard himself, racial hierarchy, Berbers, Solomon Kane’s conflicted personality, the New Model Army, Howard’s characters are solitary, Puritans, Kane has a death wish, Kane’s celibacy, significance of Solomon Kane’s name, Ben Jonson satirizes Puritan names (in Bartholomew Fayre), so does Terry Pratchett (in Lords and Ladies, Mormonism, concept of congregation of all believers, English Civil War and its sects, Grendel in Beowulf as descendant of Cain, Sandman comics, Kane is “always on the road”, Matthew Hopkins witchfinder general, wood imagery, we learn what a palaver is, The Dark Tower series, temptation, inquisition, H. P. Lovecraft, cohesion of Howard’s works, history of the English language, George Harrison’s coyright infringement, parallel evolution in fiction, Clark Ashton Smith, Charles Baudelaire, genocide, the importance of a shared reader-author premise, shared cultural values, Hitler, The King in Yellow, Woodrow Wilson was a racist, zombies vs. animals.
Posted by Seth Wilson