read_warbler (read_warbler) wrote,

The Vampire Tapestry

Suzy McKee Charnas is an author I'd not previously heard of. I came across her here on the FantasticFiction entry for Peter S. Beagle. Often these entries are accompanied by some book recommendations from said author (you have to scroll down to the bottom of each entry) and they're nearly always worth looking at. I've found a few decent books this way and this time it was The Vampire Tapestry.

I like the 'matter-of-fact' way this book starts:

"On Tuesday morning Katje discovered that Dr Weyland was a vampire, like the one in the movie she'd seen last week."

Well quite. ;-)

Dr Weyland *is* in fact a vampire, masquerading as a university professor, somewhere in upstate New York. Katje, is a late professor's wife who has been left in reduced circumstances and has to clean the campas social club for a living. At first she decides she must be mistaken about the doctor, then realises she isn't when the professor is obviously singling her out for something. He studies dreams and wants her to take part in his study but Katje realises that this is how he chooses his victims and tries to avoid him. Things come to a head in the car-park one night and... well after what happens Dr Weyland has to move on and we next meet him in a small appartment in New York city where he being held prisoner by 'Roger'. Roger is a bit of an odd ball and thinks there is a profit to be made out of 'his' vampire but his nephew, Mark, is appalled and slowly gets to know Weyland and tries to help him. Things turn very nasty when a dangerous friend of Roger's, who specialises in black magic, decides to put the doctor on show for his creepy friends...

The first thing to know about this book is that it isn't a novel in the traditional sense, it's really a series of five novellas that make a whole story. The first takes place as stated, in the university, the second in the appartment in NY, the third tells how he becomes a patient of a psycho-therapist, also in NY, after which he moves to New Mexico. Things do all tie up in the end but the joy of the story is in the journey so to speak.

The second thing to know is that this is not a cosy story. Dr Weyland is not a benevolent vampire, he's a hunter pure and simple. He's cold, manipulating, emotionless - lives only for his next meal and loves the hunt. And yet, oddly enough, it's still possible to empathise with him and even feel sorry for his plight! This is obviously due to the skilful writing of Suzy McKee Charnas - she writes well and keeps you turning the pages. The only section I did find ever so slightly tedious was the one based on a trip to see the opera, ' Tosca', in New Mexico. I'm not much into opera (even though I'm thoroughly enjoying 'Maestro' on TV) and there was a great deal about it in this part. But that's only a very minor quibble in an over-all enjoyable read.

Peter Beagle is quoted as saying it was the best vampire novel he'd ever read. I wouldn't quite say that - my favourites so far would be The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and Sunshine by Robin McKinley, not to mention Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett. But The Vampire Tapestry is, nevertheless, excellent and definitely a keeper.
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