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Simon Clark

Hodder & Stoughton

UK Trade Hardcover

ISBN 0-340-6908-7

441 pages; £16.99 ($39.95 US)

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002




03-07-02, 04-29-02, 01-17-03

Simon Clark likes to turn things upside-down and shake them until the blood comes out. In his fifth novel, 'Vampyrrhic', he demonstrates that he's ready to take on the challenge of doing something original with vampires. It's not an easy, but Clark is truly able to come up with a different angle on an over-used horror stereotype. For most its length, 'Vampyrrhic' is a gripping and original novel.

Clark starts out strong with an eerie and disorienting sequence in which a young woman is hypnotized by a video diary left behind in a hotel room. The man who shot the video footage is missing, and the footage seems to show something that shouldn't be real. The history of a small town named Leppington is revealed on the video, a town founded by the Leppington family with an economy based on the slaughterhouse that stands at its center. Bernice Morcardi is becoming obsessed with the video. To her, it's become a drug. Clark then introduces his hero, David Leppington, who is returning to the small town in coastal England that bears his name. In short order the two other main characters are introduced, a thug who gives himself the name Jack Black and Electra Charnwood, the proprietor of the only hotel in town.

Clark cleverly steeps the town in the blood of the slaughterhouse, which flows directly into the drains beneath. His writing is disturbing, and as he describes the people and other things that populate the town, he creates a real sense of unease. The reader knows that vampires are at the heart of the problem, but these aren't like any vampires you've encountered before. Clark does an excellent job of coming up with a new explanation for what these particular vampires are, how they came into being, and how they continue to exist. His four main characters are well-drawn, especially Jack Black. He even manages a few special effects with his prose, slowing down the film, so to speak, to highlight important scenes.

However, he seems to rather run out of steam towards the end of the novel. Though he keeps up the pace and gets the action really roaring, he loses his sense of invention and the final resolution is not as satisfying as the setup. He does a bang-up job describing the monsters early on, but in the end, it's as if the movie he was making ran out of money for special makeup effects, and he had to resort to something much cheaper. For many, the action-packed finale will work just fine, but Clark's dark hints at the beginning of the novel are not really followed through in the conclusion. Still 'Vampyrrhic' is an excellent novel for most of its length, establishing Clark as an original talent who can resurrect the oldest and most tired horror stereotypes and breath new death into their tired frames.