Wednesday, October 21, 2009

London Under Midnight


This is the mysterious graffiti that is appearing all over town in Simon Clark’s (Vampyrrhic, Vampyrrhic Rites, Blood Crazy, This Rage of Echoes) book London Under Midnight (a play on the title of the classic Lon Chaney movie, I suppose). Ben Ashton is a magazine writer assigned to uncover who is doing the graffiti and why. He gets more than he bargains for as he discovers London is undergoing a plague of vampires, who reach the city underwater from a small island in the Thames. The assignment turns personal for Ben when his unrequited love, April Connor, is attacked by a vampire and disappears.

In Vampyrrhic and Vampyrrhic Rites, Clark gave the vampire story a new twist by incorporating elements of Norse mythology. Here he tries to do the same using the Nigerian trickster god Edshu as the driving force behind the vampires. Edshu, as is explained in endless exposition by an old Nigerian man named Elmo, is doing this to test the city, or someone in it.

I’ve been a fan of Simon Clark for a long time, as you can tell if you read my earlier posts about his books, but this one just didn’t work for me. Although it is a short novel, just over 200 pages, it drags in places, as there are long sequences of conversation or characters thinking about things that don’t really have anything to do with the main story.

There are also plot points that go nowhere, as for example the point that is mentioned over and over that these vampires have sticky hair. You expect that to have something important to do with the story, but it doesn’t, and is never really explained. Most of the characters are also unlikeable. Some things strain credulity, like the fact that hundreds of vampires are making berserker attacks in London each night, but no one but our heroes seems very concerned. I guess London is so deserted, these things pass without notice. I would have expected martial law to be declared.

[SPOILER] The biggest problem is the ending, which is beyond silly. Apparently, all the lead has to do is imagine the problem being resolved and it happens, with all the vampires dissolving, except for the ones he cares about, who are cured. So for vampires, all you need is positive thinking. [END SPOILER]

If you haven’t read Simon Clark, I urge you to do so. He truly is one of the best horror writers working today. But, please, don’t start with London Under Midnight.

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