Necroscope: An original take on the vampire story

Necroscope by Brian Lumley horror book reviewsNecroscope by Brian Lumley horror book reviewsNecroscope by Brian Lumley

Necroscope (1986) is the first in a series of 18 novels and novellas that Brian Lumley has written about Harry Keogh, a man who has the power to speak to the dead. I have previously read one of these novellas (The Mobius Murders) and wanted to read more stories about Harry. I purchased the audiobook of this first one at Audible a few years ago and have been waiting for the rest to be put on audio before starting. Fortunately, Macmillan Audio is now producing them.

In Necroscope, we meet Harry for the first time. At the beginning of the story he is just a boy, growing up as an orphan and attending a private school in England. At first he’s a poor student, but when he realizes that he can tap into the thoughts of deceased scholars, he starts to blossom. As he grows into manhood, revenge for his mother’s death is on his mind.

Meanwhile, in Rumania, a boy named Boris Dragosani discovers that he can hear the voice/thoughts of an undead vampire named Thibor Ferenczy who has long been buried underground. Thibor seduces Boris with promises of power and long life, and with the skills he learns from the vampire, Boris becomes the tool of one of the most powerful men in the Soviet Union.

The stories of Harry and Boris wind up slowly but eventually collide in dramatic fashion before coming to a mind-blowing end. Necroscope is a horror story, so there is lots of blood, guts, and gore, though the yuckiest stuff is confined to only a few scenes. One of these, at the beginning of the novel, is one of the grossest scenes I’ve ever read in a fantasy novel. I felt sick to my stomach.

Lumley’s prose is beautiful but not always compelling due to its slow pace and occasional overly descriptive passages. There are too many infodumps and lectures in the text, too. But Necroscope has an original take on the vampire story, it’s full of atmosphere, and it’s totally unpredictable. I loved Harry’s power and the way he used it to tap into the minds of dead geniuses. I also liked the science fiction aspects (this has to do with the science behind how Harry’s gift works). I’m eager to learn more.

The audiobook editions of the NECROSCOPE novels are published by Macmillan Audio. James Langton, an Englishman who was trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, is perfectly cast as the narrator. The audiobook version of Necroscope, which is 17.5 hours long, was published in 2015. The next novel, Necroscope II: Vamphyri! was released in July 2018 and the third book, The Source, comes out this week. I’ll be reviewing these soon and hoping that Macmillan Audio has plans for the rest of the series.

Published in 1986. DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES… Except to Harry Keogh, Necroscope. And what they tell him is horrifying. In the Balkan mountains of Rumania, a terrible evil is growing. Long buried in hallowed ground, bound by earth and silver, the master vampire schemes and plots. Trapped in unlife, neither dead nor living, Thibor Ferenczy hungers for freedom and revenge. The vampire’s human tool is Boris Dragosani, part of a super-secret Soviet spy agency. Dragosani is an avid pupil, eager to plumb the depthless evil of the vampire’s mind. Ferenczy teaches Dragosani the awful skills of the necromancer, gives him the ability to rip secrets from the mind and bodies of the dead. Dragosani works not for Ferenczy’s freedom but world domination. He will rule the world with knowledge raped from the dead. His only opponent: Harry Koegh, champion of the dead and the living. To protect Harry, the dead will do anything–even rise from their graves!

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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4 comments

  1. I liked the one Harry Keogh story I’ve read previously. With the Soviet Union, this sounds simultaneously dated and topical! Might be good pre-Halloween reading.

  2. “simultaneously dated and topical!”

    I know!! People have complained about it being dated because of the cold war stuff, but somehow it doesn’t feel so dated anymore.

  3. The Necroscope novels are one of my favorite takes on vampires. Essential reading for anybody who wants to get just about as far away from sparkly and romantic as possible. :)

    • That is very true. Have you tried the audiobooks? I was so happy to see that Macmillan Audio is finally producing these again. The narration is excellent — perfectly fits the atmosphere.

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