Fangland: John Marks
Reviewed By David Jenkins
When I first heard about this story it was described as a modern take on Dracula with emails replacing letters and phonographs in certain parts. This expectation, unfortunately, coloured my expectation of the novel and when I found out that not only was the vampire lore different but the main vampire isn’t Dracula I was disappointed. However, seeing the story as inspired by Dracula whether in ideas like Harker being held in a nunnery in Romania or themes like the threat of the foreigner it stands out as a good story.
Evangeline Harker has been sent to Transylvania to interview a crime lord called Torgu but once there she finds things aren’t as they appear. Torgu keeps her locked up as he sets off for America in his terrorist like quest to take over The Hour (show that Harker works for). Harker struggles with her new urgings while The Hour is decaying until she arrives there months later for the final battle.
There are several positives about this book, in particular, Torgu’s house is a rundown/partially burnt down hotel and Marks’s description of this gritty place is amazing and I think this should be a more used setting in horror. Torgu’s mannerisms of inexperience with guests and fierce pride reassuringly resemble Dracula but his weaknesses and powers set him up as something different entirely. Even Torgu’s gift is original as it’s not exactly immortality but knowledge and later on the philosophical elements of this are mentioned. Another positive is Harker reluctant transformation and her as a narrator.
However, there are several other narratives like in Dracula but some of them feel unnecessary like Austen Trotta the long-time correspondent. But I found this just the root of the problem as The Hour setting was a disappointment in other ways as many of the people on this show are unlikeable so there’s little sympathy when they are killed or turned. There is also a lack of realism in the interpretation of The Hour. In this building, a woman is allowed to bring in knives and civil war re-enactment bayonets which to me seems one hell of a security risk. Several people are killed and have near-death experiences on one of the floors and there is little police involvement. In addition, the three coffins/trunks are just left alone on the floor without anyone ever trying to open them. Without going into spoilers I would just like to add I found the ending was also an anti-climax and in fact most of the last third of the book was.
Overall I felt this a good story but a great idea. Sadly the last third of the book mainly the parts in The Hour setting let it down.
David Jenkins writes short stories, novels, comics, anything really in the sci-fi, horror and fantasy genres. A variety of his articles and reviews have appeared on Mass Movement and Attack on Planet B among other sites. Gardens, Galaxies and Goosebumps is his first short story collection.
Gardens, Galaxies And Goosebumps
Does the thought of moving into a house where a Satanist once lived terrify you?
Have you ever wondered how society would change following a failed alien invasion?
Do you find it strange that humans don’t eat more vegetables even though they’re so good for us?
Find the answers to all these questions and more in the nine stories that make up the mixed genre offering that is Gardens, Galaxies And Goosebumps.