Some stories, victims of countless bland sequels, die a slow and painful death. At the hands of an author who so thoroughly beats the concepts to death that at the end the remnants of a once great thing are left in tatters. These stories are victims of their own success, often beginning with a wonderful germ that captures the imagination, but which in death are irretrievably tarnished by that which follows on. There are those that survive this brutal treatment however, in the hands of an author more than capable of understanding the strengths of their vision, there are those stories that can grow to accomplish far more than their humble beginnings. Brian Lumley's Necroscope novels are an example of this, books which began with an original concept that has been built on and expanded into whole new areas as the series progresses. The inital idea that spawned the series has evolved into countless others far removed from their initial moment of creation.
It could so easily have gone wrong, drifted into the same trap as countless successful series before it, but the series has in fact gone from strength to strength, changing from a single novel into an all encompassing saga. A developing history of a different world at times closely tied to our own, but more than a history of a world it is the story of those that created it. It seems like a continuation of that vocal tradition of storytelling, a history past down from generation to generation, with a series of characters whose past and future are interwoven.
The original Necroscope book, and its follow-ups, were a unique blend of horror, science fiction, the paranormal, cold war paranoia, spy thriller. Where the most startling thing was how well it all worked. How easily it all held together. The horror was laid on thick, often gruesome and uncomfortable but never cold and impersonal. The books drew you in and wouldn't let you go until they spat you out. They evolved as they progressed, the story at first so much about Earth found itself expanding to encompass a whole new world of the author's creation. On ruled over entirely by a fearful army of vampires, and their Wampyrii rulers. From stories wrapped up in the legends of european history, he created a world that borrowed from these stories whilst wrapping them in a whole new sensibility. These were vampires, but not as we had known them before, he had taken the original idea and pushed it to a whole new level.
So, after the tidy ending, bringing the saga to its cyclic conclusion, he returns with a new saga. In other hands perhaps it could so easily be labelled a spin off, but here we see yet more growth. A novel based entirely in the vampire world, with a cast of familiar and unfamilar characters, a new generation of humanity and a new generation of the Wampyrii. This is no mere repackaging of the previous series though. Much as most authors of more traditionally literary works will often set their novels in the same setting, be it the streets of London, the roads of the USA, or the suburbs of Rome. Here Lumley has created a backdrop in which he can create whatever drama he chooses.
This novel sees two twin boys, grown up to men, who are seperated by fate and sent on two very different paths. Torn apart by their love for a single woman, and eventually pitted against each other. It is an ancient story, painted on a backdrop of the authors own creation, filled with complex twists and turns. There is an atmosphere of the horrific about it, though it is not driven by the horror as a traditional horror novel is, rather it is drawn by the characters and their individual stories. The horror is secondary, something that impinges on the lives of everyone, much like war impinges on the lives of those wrapped up in it. For this is far closer to a novel exposing the horrors of war than the story of an ancient evil awoken in a haunted house, or even a vampire novel. For horror relies on the unknown, whereas here the evil forces are characters as much as the protagonists are. No cardboard cut out monsters, but individuals in their own right, complex individuals who have quite a bit in common with the occasional monster that is humanity.
It's a shame in a way that the opening novels in the series are so horrific, enough gore to turn aside all but the most hardy, for later in the series as the gore dissipates and he instead concentrates on the strengths of the story and the characters, the novels become far more successful and accessible. If you were put off by the first novel, or even if you weren't, it may be worth plunging straight in here, learn the story from a different angle as I originally did, for this is where I first encountered the series. Only afterwards going back and reading the original five (and then two more as Lumley filled in more of the gaps). You may be thrown at first by the events taking place in a world you've never encountered, but as the story grows from its small beginnings you can't help but be drawn in.