Lord of the Dead by Tom Holland
325 pages, Pocket Books, New York. $23.00
Review score: **1/2 out of *****
The Byronic hero, the young man of stormy emotions who shuns humanity and wanders through life weighed down by a sense of guilt for mysterious sins of his past. Microsoft Encarta, 1996

Lord Byron (George Gordon Noel Byron, 1788-1824) was one of the leading poets of the romantic movement. He was also a famous marksman, who was supposed to have swam the Bosporus strait. Byron died in Missolonghi, Greece, while taking part in the Greek rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. The romantic life and writings of Lord Byron are easy to adapt to a novel, as Tom Holland has done in Lord of the Dead. Holland is a Byron scholar and in his novel, Byron the poet and romantic hero also becomes Byron the vampire. Each chapter starts with a quote from a Byron poem or from other writings by his contemporaries. Before reading this book I thought that the Vampire myth did not appear in english literature until the Victorian era (Dracula was written by Bram Stoker in 1897). However, Lord of the Dead opens with a quote from Byron's poem The Giaour:

But first on earth as Vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy Race:
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corse:
Thy victims, ere they yet expire,
Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are wither'd on the stem...
Wet thine own best blood shall drip
thy gashing tooth and haggard lip;
then stlking to thy sullen grace,
Go - and with Gouls and Afrits rave;
Till these in horror shrink away
From Spectre more accursed than they!

The fact that Vampires appear in Byron's poems, and that his heroes tend to be tortured souls, lends a strange credibility to the story in Lord of the Dead. Holland writes well and although the story suffers from several logical flaws (for example, the Vampires kill with wild abandon, without fear of detection), the book draws the reader in. Byron as a Vampire becomes a hero, steeped in evil.

Byron's tale is told to Rebecca Carville. Like the reporter in Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire, she exists primarily to hear the Vampire's story. As a result, her character is incomplete and I never found her actions believable. Although Lord of the Dead is an enjoyable novel, I think that even stories that contain elements which we know are fantasy (e.g., Vampires or faster than light travel), must respect an internal logic. I rated Lord of the Dead only two and a half stars because of its logical inconsistencies. This did not bother my wife as much and she gave the book a four star rating.

Ian Kaplan - 3/96

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