01/04/2010. Contributed by Neale Monks
pub: Subterranean Press. 176 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $35.00 (US. ISBN: 978-1-59606-272-6.
check out website: www.subterraneanpress.com
'The Plague-Bearers' is a story that was sketched out by Brian Lumley fourteen years ago, but only recently tidied up into the novella now published by Subterranean Press. It fits into the Necroscope time-line otherwise detailed in the 'Lost Years' books and features Harry Keogh and the vampire-like aliens known as Wamphyri.
Keogh is a Necroscope, a person able to hear the dead and, alongside various other psychic powers, he uses this skill to oppose the Wamphyri and their many nefarious plots. The Wamphyri are parasitic life-forms that use humans as both hosts and food and a colony of them on Earth lead by the Francezci family.
In 'The Plague-Bearers', the Francezcis have concocted a plot to infect one of their enemies, a werewolf pack based in Edinburgh. To this end, the Francezcis 'recruit' a wayward Mafia thug, injecting a new plague into his bloodstream while offering the cure only if he manages to carry out the mission. Fortunately for the werewolves, Keogh is living among them, looking for his missing wife and son. He finds out about the threat and, hero that he is, sets about to both stop the plague-bearer and then find out who sent him.
One problem with releasing stories that take place mid-way through a now fully fleshed out cycle of books is that they can easily lack dramatic tension. Readers will likely know already that Harry Keogh goes on to have many adventures after the 'Lost Years' stories like this one. On the other hand, Lumley is a good enough writer that he can use less familiar secondary characters for this sort of thing instead. The plague-bearers, Mike Milazzo, is a thoroughly unpleasant guy, but interesting enough in a sub-Sopranos sort of way to keep the reader interested in his fate.
The storyline is straightforward and lacking in twists. At 184 pages, this isn't a long book and there's barely anything that might be called a B-plot. The proof copy sent for review contained a good few typos, but presumably these will be picked up before final publication and the only really awkward part of the book is the supposedly Scottish speech used by the Edinburgh natives. Despite having lived in Scotland for some years, this reviewer never finds mock-Scots authentic or even particularly easy to read. Others may feel differently, but either way, it's a minor niggle.
'The Plague-Bearers' includes original artwork by Bob Eggleton, though the quality of this is impossible to judge from the proof sent to this reviewer. The artwork in the proof was limited to simple sketches above the chapter titles. According to the publisher's website the artwork in the hardcover book is rather better and more closely tied to the various scenes and characters in the book.
Overall, a quick read and a worthwhile addition to the 'Necroscope' series. At $35 a bit pricey given the length of the book, but assuming the artwork is full-page and nicely reproduced, this'll probably be a popular purchase among Lumley fans.
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