The ESP Cold War is heating up. England, the United States, France, Israel and Russia have all devoted special branches of their governments to exploiting the psychic talents of some unique individuals. Russia and England are the most serious about developing these resources, having seen the spectacular results that the people involved can bring about. There are the far seers, who can see in their minds what’s happening at distant points around the world; there are the people who can detect where every nuclear weapon is around the world; there is one in Russia (Igor Vlady) who can use his power of the “evil eye” to kill people, making their deaths appear to be the result of heart attacks. And there are those who can discover the secrets of the dead. The ones like Boris Dragosani, the necromancers, ravage dead bodies, tearing them apart, ripping their secrets out of their organs, their brains, their very blood. The dead even willingly talke to one special man, Harry Keogh, teaching him their own special talents. He is the “necroscope” of Brian Lumley’s intensely riveting horror novel of ESP, espionage, spies, and vampires.
Necroscope was first published in 1986. It’s a modern vampire classic, selling millions of copies world-wide inspiring an almost cult-like following, and several bestselling sequels. The Orb Books reissue from TOR Books is beautifully done, with superbly drawn pictures by the late Hugo Award-winning artist Bob Eggleton, “long identified with Lumley’s blood-sucking monsters,” as a press release that came with my copy of the book says. Necroscope transcends the horror genre, mixing elements of science fiction and spy novels with traditional horror novel subjects like blood-thirsty vampires and the dead rising from out of their graves.
I couldn’t help but think as I was reading Necroscope of the excellent thought-provoking new television series by J.J. Abrams, Fringe. Both deal with phenomena on the fringes of science, and it’s possible Abrams might have read and been influenced by this book, though I don’t know for sure. At any rate, the highly original protagonist, Harry Keogh, and antagonist Dragosani of Necroscope are memorable literary creations that will haunt your dreams and soul long after the book is put down.
Dragosani is Romanian born and thinks of himself as a proud Wallachian. He works for the Soviets as a necromancer, learning his skills from the vampire Thibor Ferenczy, trapped in unlife, neither alive nor dead, hungering for freedom and revenge as well as blood. Dragosani wants to discover all of the secrets of the wamphyri, or the vampire, not only necromancy - but without having to become a vampire, himself. As a boy, he explored a cruciform-shaped mountain range and stumbled upon the ancient grave of Thibor, chained into the earth with iron and silver chains and buried alive - or, to be more accurate, undead. The boy heard the voice of a being he thought of as “the Thing from the ground.” It scared him, but he came back to year after year. The expectation of growing powerful under Thibor’s tutelage overcame any fears, and his knowledge earned him his eventual job working for the Russians.
Harry Keogh’s mother, a medium, passed on her talent of communicating with the dead to her son, who comes to greatly surpass her abilities. His stepfather, Victor Shukshin, possesses the ability to see and feel emanations from other people with psychic talents. However, being around them pains Victor physically and mentally, enraging him and causing him to murder Harry’s mother, though Harry doesn’t learn this until later in his life.
Necroscope is difficult to summarize. It’s a complex and engaging work of fiction with many extremely cool characters in it, each with his/her own motivations. It’s told by a mysterious ghostly figure to Alex Kyle, who is employed by England’s ESP branch. He writes it all down over the space of several hours, and the pages he composes are the novel we read. Visiting the grave of Mobius, the mathematician and creator of the Mobius strip, is one of the many cool parts of the novel, a turning point that aids Keogh in his battle with Dragosani and the entire Russian ESPionage branch. If you enjoy horror and sci-fi, you owe it to yourself to get Necroscope today.