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City of Nightmares

The Vampire City”

by Paul Féval, published in 1875

Translation by Brian Stableford, 2003

This thing is a mess. Entire storylines and characters are dropped in or out, much of it is told out of order—for no reason beyond laziness—and the ending has one of the most blatant deus ex machinas I've ever seen. And yet, there's a certain charm to all the incoherence. There are also several legitimately funny bits.

One thing missing is horror—until we finally come to the nightmare vision of Selene—the titular city of the vampires. This vast benighted world is positively epic... and a bit wasted in a book that is really just a parody of horror and romanticism.

In this pre-Dracula novel, vampires have some rather bizarre abilities. They turn their victims not into other vampires, but into enslaved clones of themselves. OK, that's certainly different. Thus we are given male victims turned into women and women turned into men. Rather than deal with this idea in depth, Féval delivered a confusing hodge-podge.

Completists who've read Féval's “Vampire Countess” may want to check out this book. But for others, I can't say that the jokes or the unique vampire traits make it worthwhile.

2.5 stars.


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