Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Monster with a Thousand Faces – review

Author: Brian J Frost

First published: 1989

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Brian Frost chronicles the history of the vampire in myth and literature, providing a sumptuous repast for all devotees of the bizarre. In a wide-ranging survey, including plot summaries of hundreds of novels and short stories, the reader meets an amazing assortment of vampires from the pages of weird fiction, ranging from the 10,000-year-old femme fatale in Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Conqueror to the malevolent fetus in Eddy C. Bertin’s “Something Small, Something Hungry.” Nostalgia buffs will enjoy a discussion of the vampire yarns in the pulp magazines of the interwar years, while fans of contemporary vampire fiction will also be sated.

The review: The first thing to note about this volume is the publication date. Given when it was published the book does look at certain issues, such as the impact that Vlad Tepes had on the character of Count Dracula, with an uncritical and filtered view that the work of later scholars have added to the debate. One should also note that Frost’s definition of “vampire” is broad and so this leads to a look at pre-Serbian sources in the mythology and a much wider view of vampirism in the literature chapters (which are, of course, the meat of the book).

I was perhaps unmoved by the mythology section, it added nothing to the many books out there, however it is within the literature section and, specifically, the look at pulp fiction works that the volume shines. The journey through the pulps was excellently done and is the main focus/reason I would recommend this volume.

I found the author somewhat dismissive, however, of stories (and novels) he didn’t like, writing off a tale with little to no explanation. It was opinion rather than review (not that the volume is a review book) and failed to capitalise on the fact that as poor and uninspired he might find a specific piece, it may well appeal to others and bring something, if only the sliver of an element, to the party.

However, simply for the exploration of the pulps, this deserves 6 out of 10.

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