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The Fly-By-Nights by Brian Lumley

1/09/2011. Contributed by Neale Monks

Buy The Fly-By-Nights in the USA - or Buy The Fly-By-Nights in the UK

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pub: Subterranean Press. 224 page deluxe hardback. Price: $35.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-348-8.

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'The Fly-By-Nights' is a post-apocalyptic story that has some parallels with Lumley's well-known vampire fiction but with the added twist of a nuclear holocaust. Early on in the story, one of the characters hypothesises that the monstrous hunters known as fly-by-nights are descended from the vampires that haunted the pre-holocaust world. Be that as it may, those humans left on the Earth must eke a living out underground, scavenging resources from the surface during night-time excursions, all the time trying their best to avoid fly-by-night depredation.

Against this backdrop is set a straightforward adventure tale involving a young hero, Garth, and his struggle for love, respect and ultimately survival. Garth is a young man growing up in a small band of humans who have discovered that they have to move on from their settlement. The water supply they've been relying on for years has gone bad and that means they need to find another place to live. Fortunately, it seems, they receive a signal from another community and decide to set out on the long and dangerous trek. But besides the fly-by-nights, they have to deal with the fact the nuclear war burned away the ozone layer, so the sun's radiation now scours the surface and can kill anyone exposed for too long.

Besides the trek, there's also a love triangle. A young woman called Layla doesn't just enjoy Garth's affection, but also the longings of an older and much more senior member of the community called Singer. He's the leader of the Scavengers, the elite of the group who take on the risky job of finding resources and defending the community from fly-by-nights. While Garth tries his best to work with Singer, he quickly discovers that Singer would be more than happy to see him dead.

If this sounds a bit soap-opera in quality, it is, but frankly, that doesn't matter much. As is usually the case with Lumley's standalone novels and short stories, the characters are pretty much a means to an end. Instead, the strengths of the book is its blend of description and action. Alongside Lumley's description of a world without hope or comfort, there are lots of action-packed scenes as well as twists and turns that keep the reader entertained.

Bottom line, a fun read and an interesting twist on Lumley's traditional vampire fiction, with enough new material to keep things fresh but with many of his more familiar tropes thrown in for good measure.

Neale Monks

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