(2007) Brian Lumley, Solaris, £9.99, pbk, 431pp, ISBN 978-1-844-1-6485-3
Brian Lumley started the Necroscope series back in 1986 with the first volume, Necroscope. This was followed by a further four volumes, Wamphyri!, The Source, Deadspeak and Deadspawn; then came three volumes of 'Vampire World', set in the same universe, Blood Brothers, The Last Aerie and Bloodwars; and then another five Necroscope books, The Lost Years, Resurgence, Invaders, Defilers and Avengers. This, then, twenty-one years after the series started, is the fourteenth Necroscope book! But don't panic; you can read this as a stand-alone, though I have to say that it would certainly help if you have read at least the initial five books. For those unfamiliar with the Necroscope universe, here is a brief outline: the universe is a mixture of horror, science fiction and fantasy which pits 'psi-powered' individuals against vampires. The Necroscope of the title, and the ongoing hero for many volumes, is one Harry Keogh who has the ability to talk to the dead and, when necessity arises, to make them rise up. He is also an intuitive mathematician who, through discussions with August Ferdinand Mobius (yes, he of the Mobius strip), also has access to the Mobius continuum which allows Harry almost instantaneous travel to any destination to which he can calculate the co-ordinates, effectively teleportation. Through no fault of his own, Harry gets caught up in the ongoing ESPionage activites of the British and Russian intelligence 'E-Branches'; each side having a selection of scryers, locators, telepaths and so forth. However one Russian necromancer makes contact with a vampire, and it is the vampires that quickley become the real villains of the series. In the third volume, The Source, the Russians accidentally punch a hole through to another dimension (while developing an anti-missile shield) and uncover the homeworld of the vampires, or Wamphyri as they are known; the world is most often referred to as Starside. In other words, vampires are really extra-dimensional aliens with little in the way of physical technology, but a nifty line in biological manipulation. By the end of the first five volumes Harry has himself become Wamphyri and, during a showdown with some nasty types on Starside, sacrifices himself to ensure the safety of Earth. However, a 'higher power' intervenes and shards of Harry's 'soul' are sent speeding through time and space to help others...
Which more or less leads us to this volume. A journalist, Kelly St.John, while investigating what she thinks are the bogus activities of a faith healer, contracts a mysterious disease and dies, at the exact same moment that Harry Keogh dies on Starside. Her husband, and hero of this book, Scott St.John is struck by a fragment of Harry's soul and has the powers of the Necroscope conferred upon him. It turns out that the faith healer and his two colleagues are really aliens, called the Shing't, from a highly advanced world. Among other things the Shing't have mastered biological manipulation to the point where they can administer their powers, for good or ill, through a single touch, hence the title of this book. On the homeworld, Shing, the population is split into research triumvirates, each with a 'major' and 'minor' subject, the three bad guys majoring in physics with theology as their minor. Becoming convinced that there is no such thing as a Creator (and going mad in the process!), the baddies decide to 'prove' their hypothesis by taunting Him with global genocides, effectively daring Him to come out of hiding and stop them. Quickly destroying their homeworld, the Shing't triumvirate destroy three or four more worlds before ending up here on Earth, where they have a similar end in mind for us... British E-Branch become aware of the aliens' activities at the same time as which Scott is approached by a beautiful woman, Shania, who is one of the few Shing't who was pursuing offworld researches when Shing was destroyed. Scott and Shania also have a further ally in Wolf jnr., a descendent of a wolf from Starside... Just what are the Shing't up to in the Swiss mountain retreat and can Scott, his friends and E-Branch stop them in time...
Lumley has been at this game for decades now, and he is a very readable writer. While he is not very 'deep', neither does he pretend to be. His books are, for the most part, rollicking good reads often described as 'page-turners' (which is no bad thing). So, for the SF-loving horror fan or, perhaps, the horror-loving SF fan (if there is any functional difference), Lumley's books are thoroughly entertaining fun, with plenty of splat (in this book people being completely evaginated [look it up or read the book]) and a smattering of pseudo-scientific explanations to help with the ol' suspension of disbelief. It has been a while since I have read any Lumley, certainly any Necroscope volumes, but I found it easy to fall back into the universe and rattle through this book. Recommended 'splaterrific' fun.
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