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  1. #1
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Fantasy BotM August 2011: Necroscope by Brian Lumley

    This month's Fantasy /Horror offering is an old one: Necroscope by Brian Lumley.



    First published in 1986, it's a tale of Lovecraftian horror and vampires, and introduces us to Harry Keogh who is born with the ability to speak to the dead.


    Very popular at its time of first publication, 25 years later does it stand up to the test of time?

    Discuss!

    Mark
    Mark

  2. #2
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    I read this in '86 and really enjoyed it. I remember finding it only because "Lumley" is very close to "King" on the shelf at my local bookstore. Actually... that's why I read my first Koontz novel too. I hope to do a re-read of this before August is out to participate. Good choice!

  3. #3
    Vanaeph Westsiyeed's Avatar
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    I also read this about a couple of decades ago and re-read about 6 months ago.

    A fantastic horror novel and good lead in to the Necroscope series by Lumley. He builds the characters very well and is good at giving all the (relevant) life history behind them. The story's told at a pace that makes you want to keep reading, and he makes the world of ESP, vampires and talking to the dead believable. There are some scenes that are scary and some that are quite gory too, especially some of the descriptions of how the character Dragosani "reads" the dead.

    I've read just the five in the Necroscope series and they were all good; from memory my favourite was the book set in the world of the Wamphyri and the aeries they inhabit (I think it was book 3 The Source) - and there are some very evil characters! There's also about another 10 books in related series that I'll have to check out one day...

    (Good to see another horror in the BotM too!)

  4. #4
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    (Good to see another horror in the BotM too!)
    Yeah, I was thinking that too. There will be one in October though, if that helps: we always try a Horror for Halloween.

    To me, Necroscope is one of those gore-filled horror novels that were so prevalent in the so-called horror-boom of the '80's.

    Pretty icky, though if I remember right there's some quite good stuff in there - the Bureau for Occult Investigations before they became ten-a-penny, vampires with a twist (again, before they became popular (again)) and occultist stuff that owed a lot to Lovecraft, of whom Lumley is a big fan.

    It is also quite British, if I remember right.

    Has it dated as badly as I suspect it has?

    Mark
    Mark

  5. #5
    Very disappointing - especially because of the interesting premise. To be honest I only finished it because it is BotM and it was the last book left unread during my vacation.

    As said, the basic idea, characters and events could be very interesting - but not when they're described the way they are. To me, it seems that Brian Lumley writes as follows: he has an average to good idea, pictures the characters, setting and dialogue in his mind and then writes everything down his mind shows him. There is no discernable effort made to separate the tedious and the obvious bits from the interesting ones. It's like reading the script for a B-movie - including pointers for the director. One example: "On the floor at his feet, Boris Dragosani was unconscious. His collapse had simply been a ploy to put him within reach of a weapon." Aha!! And it's not one example, he does this throughout the book.

    Dialogue is not very convincing either - again, Lumley seems to conjure up some B-type movie conversation, and writes everything down he comes up with.

    Cool idea, necroscope vs. necromancer, some of the sequences are O.K. (Harry's school days, Dragosani's necromancy in the first chapter), but overall very poor.

    Cheers,

    Sfinx.

  6. #6
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Fast work, sfinx: well done!

    Dialogue seems to be an issue then: or narrative!

    Where it did work for you, why did it work there?

    Mark
    Mark

  7. #7
    Filthy Assistants! Moderator kater's Avatar
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    I remember being quite obsessive about this series and when I just went to check I counted 12 Necroscope books on my shelf, including the lost years and the abortive second series. Don't remember a whole lot other than it got browny points for being quite dark and bloodthirsty with an occasional creepy edge. There was also just enough killing of important characters, tragically in some cases, to make you never quite sure if Harry was going to save the day. Can't hurt to re-read I suppose, but I'm blaming you all if I end up reading all 12

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit View Post
    Fast work, sfinx: well done!

    Dialogue seems to be an issue then: or narrative!

    Where it did work for you, why did it work there?

    Mark

    I don't have a copy here, so can't quote literally, but what worked (compared to the rest) were, as I mentioned, the parts where Dragosani is first acting out his necromancy and the episodes focusing on Harry's school-days.

    The necromancy sequence in the first chapter is interesting because it's original, conjures up vivid images - and is one of the few instances where Lumley's tendency to explain everything in detail actually has added value - it enhances the 'shock effect'. The bits about Harry's school-days are quite atmospheric and are relevant to the story and the origin and development of his special skill. And even though for instance the parts about Harry's sudden knack for math are obvious in the extreme, they still work to a certain extent.

    I think these elements of the book work better than the rest because these pertain to the original idea or theme **I think** Lumley had in his mind when he started to write the book. The rest feels like filling the spaces. And especially hard to swallow are the tedious explanations which typically go something like this:

    Harry, with a hard look on his face, pointed his finger at Dragosani, then picked up the envelope which was lying on the dusty floor.

    As for the hard look:
    Harry did not particularly like Dragosani and hoped the hard look might scare the monster off.

    As for the pointed finger:
    He wanted to make sure the abomination he was facing really knew it was
    him Harry was addressing! He couldn't allow any mistake, not at this time.

    As for the envelope:
    Etc, etc....


    You get my point.

    But there seem to be quite a few people who did enjoy Necroscope, I'd be interested to learn what they thought (or more to the point, think) of it.

    Cheers,

    Sfinx.

  9. #9
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    I started the book yesterday and I'm almost half-way through it already. Some thoughts:

    At least in theme and some of the ideas, this reminds me a bit of a recent book from the book club, F. Paul Wilson's The Keep. The force of the vampire and the power is similar, but different enough to be Lumley's own creation. Both authors are also a bit Lovecraftian in their influences.

    Obviously, there's something to the writing for me to be halfway through a 500 page book by now. That said, so far it isn't what I expected at all. So far, I'm finding this a character study of two characters - the hero and his arch enemy. Halfway through they haven't yet met and while I find the story of both characters interesting enough, I expected something, I don't know...more.

    Lumley does seem to take a while to get to his thoughts across.
    Some scenes were graphic - the sex and the bloody violence, in particular.

    I'm liking it, but I don't know that I'd continue the series at this point.

  10. #10
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    Rob, you beat me to my exact post by about 6 minutes. EVERYTHING you said, I was going to say. Definitely agree with The Keep thing, though I think this book is managing to stay much more engaging than that did.

    Although, at 300 pages, I'm ready for some conflict to arise. I give Lumley credit: There are huge sections of the book that are just conversations between Dragosani and other characters, no scene setting, no action at all, but they remain very interesting.

  11. #11
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    Exactly, no conflict yet and I was expecting a book about vampires and a guy who can talk to the dead to have more conflict than it does.

    Yes, the book is engaging, but after scanning over some of what I read after having just read it, I don't get a sense that the story is served better by some of it.

  12. #12
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    This was definitely an odd one for me. I didn't find it terribly overwritten like Sfinx did. But something about it didn't work for me. Taken on an individual basis, I generally found all the sections to be quite readable and engaging (hell, finished the 500 pages in just under two days).

    But it seemed to me like the more and more powerful the two main characters got, the less ad less I cared to actually read the book. The concept of the necroscope was fascinating, or rather I think it could have been except that Harry went from just figuring out what he could do to Super-Moebius-Strip guy in too short a time, I thought. Likewise, Dargosani was interesting when he was seeking power and learning things from the vampire. When he attained all of that he became much less interesting to me.

    By the end, all the timey-wimey, metaphysical mumbo-jumbo was a bit too much. So while I liked pretty much all the elements of this one, it just somehow didn't come together for me. I can't actually think of another book I've read in the last few years where there is such a disparity for me between concept and reception.

    In short, I would rate any given aspect of this book pretty highly. For some reason, though, I rate the entire package pretty low on the scale....
    Last edited by Erfael; August 6th, 2011 at 12:41 AM.

  13. #13
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    I finished this off last night and thought it was OK, overall.

    Upon reflection, Lumley's structure for the book - introducing the hero and his arch-enemy, building up their characters, and paying it off with a confrontation at the very end, is a tried and true recipe. Here in Necroscope, it mostly works. I say mostly because Lumley, for my taste, padded the hell out of the novel.

    I liked the final fate for Dragonasi. I also felt Lumley was throwing too much metaphysical/mythical/fantastical/pseud-scientific stuff at the wall trying to see what stuck.

    I liked his take on the vampire as a parasite living inside of other people. Although it wasn't necessarily original in its essence, I like how Lumley shaped it to his own.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Erfael View Post
    In short, I would rate any given aspect of this book pretty highly. For some reason, though, I rate the entire package pretty low on the scale....
    Could this be due to the tension between several elements of Necroscope? And instead of enhancing it, these 'conflicts' actually decrease the quality of the overall package?

    For example:

    Subject vs. writing style: the subject matter is quite 'brutal', especially Dragosani's necromancy, the writing though has a somewhat 'Young Adult' feel to me.

    Plot premise vs. actual story: as Rob pointed out, presented with the idea of 'necroscope versus necromancer' you'd expect quite a lot of action and conflict - which is, although not absent, not that pervasive.

    Hardcore vs. cuddly: Lumley doesn't shy away from explicit gore - but also shows quite a romantic streak. Which could work - but doesn't here imo.

    So poor expectation management could be the problem here...

    Cheers,

    Sfinx.

  15. #15
    Carl Alves
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    I would say for the most part I enjoyed this but I also found it hard to get into. I don't know if was the language, the pace of the story or something else. I just think it was a bit slow developing, but I stuck with it and found it pretty enjoyable.
    Carl Alves

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