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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"Necroscope: The Touch" by Brian Lumley

Official Brian Lumley Website

Over ten years ago, I read “Necroscope” by Brian Lumley, and immediately became hooked by protagonist Harry Keogh and Mr. Lumley’s unique take on vampires (Wamphyri). From there, I quickly devoured the next four volumes in the series – “Vamphyri!,” “The Source,” “Deadspeak,” “Deadspawn” – before time restraints and uncertainty of what order to read the following sequels in kept me from returning to the world of Necroscope. So, I basically forgot about the books until recently when I discovered that a new Necroscope novel had been released just last year, which I excitedly picked up.

Having finished “Necroscope: The Touch”, I’ve discovered four major points. One, the fourteenth volume in the series occurs sometime after the end of “Necroscope V: Deadspawn” and before the start of the Vampire World Trilogy. Two, since the novel is essentially a standalone story, it’s not really necessary to have read the original five Necroscope books or any of the subsequent spin-offs – Vampire World Trilogy (“Blood Brothers”, “The Last Aerie”, “Bloodwars”), The Lost Years volumes I & II, the E-Branch Trilogy (“Invaders”, “Defilers”, "Avengers”), the “Harry Keogh: Necroscope and Other Weird Heroes!” short story collection – although I think it’s in your best interest to have at least completed Necroscope I – V. Thirdly, “The Touch” is supposedly the final book in the Necroscope series. And lastly, it’s definitely time for the series to be retired.

Regarding the last, as much as I loved the initial five-part Necroscope saga, and despite the familiar elements that are in “The Touch” – recognizable characters (Ben Trask, Harry Keogh, Zek Foener, other E-Branch members, etc.), inexplicable scientific concepts (Möbius Continuum, deadspeak, extra-sensory perception abilities, so on), over-the-top villains (Mordris Three) and Lovecraftian-influenced horror – the book is an inferior effort compared to the other Necroscope novels that I’ve read.

For one, Harry is not a major character and such trademark powers as the deadspeak, Möbius Continuum and mathematics play only a small role. Additionally, there are no Wamphyri or Sunside/Starside in “The Touch”, so immediately some of the major elements that made the early Necroscope books so fascinating are noticeably absent. In their stead, we get new hero Scott St. John who possesses a ‘dart’ of Harry’s essence; alien nemeses; applications dealing with gravity, faster-than-light-speed travel, etc.; and thematic explorations about love & the existence of a god/creator. Of these, the extraterrestrial antagonists are the most interesting and frightening because of their ability to manipulate flesh and their familiars (khiff), though truthfully the Mordris Three are nothing compared to such memorable baddies as Boris Dragosani or Thibor Ferenczy. As far as the main character, as hard as Mr. Lumley tries to make Scott St. John a sympathetic figure, I could never really care much about him or any of the other faces that show up, both old & new, and I found myself sorely missing Harry Keogh. Things don’t get much better looking at the overall plot, which essentially deals with a foreseen future about the destruction of the Earth, and the unlikely group of heroes who are the only ones capable of thwarting the inevitable and changing the future for the better. In other words, pretty derivate stuff, made worse by how slow the story moves along. I can understand what the author is trying to do in developing certain characters/motives/subplots, but the basic outline of “The Touch” is pretty simple, and I think the book would have been more enjoyable if certain scenes had been cut out or shortened. In short, “The Touch” tries to revisit a bunch of established Necroscope themes/mythoses from a fresh perspective, but even with the different packaging the book just ends up feeling like a tired rehash of ideas & plots.

Overall, “The Touch” is by far the weakest of the Necroscope novels that I’ve read, and I sincerely hope that Mr. Lumley refrains from revisiting the world, since his best Necroscope days have clearly passed him by. Despite my disappointment with “The Touch”, I do believe that Brian Lumley is one of contemporary horror fiction's more important authors, and if you haven’t done so yet, then I highly recommend checking out Necroscope: I – V, which are some of the most original, dynamic and daring vampire novels out there today...and also some of my favorites…

2 comments:

lee williams said...

I totally agree with the above comments - having been an avid reader who has readily bitten into every page of a new lumley necroscope book- I found the last an absolute insult tothe series in fact judging by the standard of the writing which was consistently the same throughout - bar for now two of the total books I even doubt that lumley even wrote this book.

I cannot believe Lumley has actually put his name to such poor writing and I am shocked he has burnt himself out for the precious '£' rather than the art as stephen king did and Dean 'R' koontz when comparing their latest works to their original masterworks which became 'cutting edge' and gripping to us fans.

I actually intend on asking for my money back as I feel so cheated and emabrassed for Harry Keogh, a dart for goodness sake, what will be next, 'wind' that was kept in a jar by e-Branch which gets into the head of E-branch and harry is reformed for another series of adventures - at least that would be something better compared to the Mordrid 3 circus of ET's.

I will be sending my book back in protest BUT DO NOT BUY even if they are giving them away FREE remember the Necroscope of how he was as this is worse than a Rocky 12 film which I am sure would be a better roadcrash.

I just wish someone with the guts like director - Peter Jackson, LOTR 1,2 3, King Kong and who would take a risk & do the film of the necroscope, with CGI etc it would be fab - there is a niche with blade actor Wesley snipes - banged up for a few more months

Alan said...

This book stiiiinks. It is just as you wrote. Slow. Void of everything we love about the World of the Necroscope. Aliens?

You should really sink your fangs into the Vampire World series. The books that spend most of their time on Starside are absolutely enthralling! The Touch...is appalling.

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