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REVIEW: Necroscope by Brian Lumley

REVIEW SUMMARY: I can’t remember the last time I wanted to return to a book as much as this one.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Necroscope Harry Keogh uses his ability to talk to the dead to stop necromancer Boris Dragosani from realizing his plans of world domination.

PROS: Outstanding world building and storytelling; detailed back stories are as interesting as the main story.
CONS: Excessive use of exclamation points were not needed – the events were dramatic enough.
BOTTOM LINE: This is one of the books you don’t want to stop reading.

Brian Lumley’s 1986 book Necroscope had been on my reading pile for quite some time. I’m so, so glad I finally picked it up. This is one the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time.

Although it’s billed as a vampire novel, Necroscope is only about 10% vampires. The rest is a cornucopia of the paranormal, secret branches of government, and gore. Don’t forget the gore.

The story alternates between two main characters: Harry Keogh in Great Britain and Boris Dragosani in Cold War Russia. We meet Harry when he is a child and he discovers his ability to talk to the dead. (The dead have a lot to say, as it turns out, and they’re terribly lonely.) Harry labels himself a Necroscope and through this ability he is able to learn many things, like how to fight or do complex math. As he gets older, he uses his ability to find even more spectacular and supernatural talents – all of which lead him to learn about a secret branch of the British government (led by Keenan Gormley and Alec Kyle) which uses as agents people with various ESP abilities. Meanwhile, Boris Dragosani is similarly a member of the Russian special branch that specializes in ESP powers. Dragosani is a necromancer, who can also read the thoughts of the dead, though his particular procedure uses some seriously gruesome manipulations. Although closely watched by his boss, Gregor Borowitz, Dragosani has dreams of world domination. For better or worse (and part of the fun is figuring out which), Dragosani maintains a relationship with an undead vampire (Thibor Ferenczy) to further his aims. The only thing standing in his way is Harry Keogh.

This is but a small skimming of the surface of the intensely deep and interesting plot and background that Lumley has created. Necroscope stands as a great example of outstanding world building. Not only is this world of vampires, ESP, and speaking to the dead totally believable, but it’s also rich and deeply fascinating. Lumley spends many pages giving detailed backgrounds of the characters. Everyone has a background story. Everyone. This book would have been miserable if these background stories were not even mildly interesting. Lumley exceeds that cut line and makes these side roads more than worth the trip. You believe that vampires could exist. (Lumley mixes lore and legend with common sense and a bit of the macabre to make it so.) You can feel the tension build as situations coalesce into dramatic and perfectly paced crescendos. (There are stories within stories that are neatly wrapped up and contribute to the greater plot.) You feel for the good characters and loathe the evil ones. (The similarities between Keogh and Dragosani -except that one is a champion of the dead and the other a user of them – drive this home and give clear heroes and villains.) In short, the book completely envelops the reader.

I can’t remember the last time I wanted to return to a book as much as this one. Necroscope is a curl-up-by-the-fireside story that you’ll want to consume as much as you can.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

11 Comments on REVIEW: Necroscope by Brian Lumley

  1. Necroscope was a lot of fun, unfortunately the series goes downhill (but don’t all series?).

  2. Yep, you have no shortage of opportunities to return to this series. πŸ™‚

    No, all series don’t go downhill.

  3. After I read this in the early nineties, I found a comic book series based on the first book. I figured with all the hype (at the time) around the Lestat movie, they would surely make a movie out of these. Still waiting to cash in, but its fun to take them out of their plastic envelopes and revisit from time to time…

  4. Coincidentally, Necroscope is up for discussion at my blog the week of November 10th.  I look forward to reading it all the more following your review.  And, hey, if you’re in the neighborhood in November, come on by.  Author Brian Lumley will be dropping in to answers fan/reader questions about the book.


  5. Sounds cool.  I’ll try and stop by.

  6. I have thought about buying this book many times over the years.  Your review has me convinced to go and pick it up, thanks!

  7. Read The Last Aerie by Lumley, it’s a related series and very entertaining in a SF/horror sort of way. His vampires are very weird creatures.

  8. Wow a blast from the past – I remember reading this book and loving it.  I’m not sure I read any of the sequels, but this review brings a desire to get back into the series.

  9. I read the first few books in that series a few years ago.  They were good, but once it got into traveling to different dimensions or whatever happened… I stopped.  I can’t even remember exactly what that was all about.  But yes – the first two or three I remember enjoying.





  10. Ironic – I decided to re-read this series just recently and am into the 2nd.  Liked them well enough to read the first five, but they do slip a bit.  It’s been over a decade since I last opened them, so it’s almost like new.  Enjoy.

  11. I thought the entire series of the 1st 5 books were great, however Lumly’s excessive use of the term “to and fro”, like 10 times per book at least. Doesn’t he have a thesaurus to find a different way to say “back and forth” other than “to and fro”? He used the term so often there were times I wanted to to and fro the book down!

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