Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dracula's Quest

Seance for a Vampire by Fred Saberhagen (1994): Saberhagen's revisionist Dracula series began in the late 1970's with the delightful The Dracula Tapes, narrated by the bloody 'Count' himself, and continued through nearly a dozen volumes before Saberhagen's death in 2007. This is the third-last of these novels, and the second to pair Dracula with his cousin (in Saberhagen's world) Sherlock Holmes.

Dracula is something of a droll narrator of events, this drollness counterpointed by sections narrated by Dr. Watson, who doesn't entirely trust his best friend's cousin. But while Dracula is a master of violence, he abides by his own code of honour in Saberhagen's universe -- and part of that code involves stopping vampires from preying on humans against their will. The events of Bram Stoker's Dracula were, after all, narrated by pretty much everyone BUT Dracula.

A seance meant to draw forth the spirit of a mysteriously drowned young woman seems to call forth instead a vampire. Holmes and Watson are on the case, but once vampirism turns up, Dracula must be called in for assistance. Soon, the unlikely trio are jaunting around the early 20th-century countryside on the trail of a vampire seeking lost treasure from more than a century before -- and wreaking vengeance on the descendants of his long-dead nemesis.

Before it's all over, we'll visit pre-Revolutionary Russia and have an encounter with one of the early 20th-century's most notorious mystery men. It's a good thing Watson packed the wooden bullets -- no metals, not even silver, have the slightest effect on a vampire. While lacking the near-epic scope of The Holmes-Dracula File, Seance for a Vampire is a fun read with some poignant moments set off by comparisons between the never-aging Dracula and Holmes and Watson, now in their fifties and beginning to show it. Recommended.

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