Sunday, 30 September 2012

Review: Varney the Vampyre, or The Feast of Blood

So that's that, then. For those who have followed me on my epic, twitter sarcasm spree, I stand before you, the only person living who has read the whole of Varney, The Vampyre.

I don't say that lightly. As far as I'm aware, most versions only bother to print up to chapter 96 or so, and just leave the rest of the tome blank. Even the scholarly preface in my edition mentions nothing which occurs after Volume II. Alone. I am alone.1 The rest of you quit weeks ago.

If I'm honest, I can't say I blame you. As a novel, this does not hang together. I guess it's only human to give up when it becomes clear that not even the author had any real clue what was going to happen next, nor, indeed, what had happened previously. It's only human, after all, to want a story with a cohesive plot, a small cast of characters who each have clear goals, drives and motives. There is no place in modern literature for enormous, meandering doorstop tomes that allow themselves to indulge every little whim and silly joke that takes their fancy. Hand on heart, I can see your point entirely.

You fucking lightweights.

It rocks. Once you stop worrying about such trifling concerns as plot, character consistency, or direction it is enormous fun to read. In fact, it is 1166 pages of perfect delight. Let me reiterate. 1166 pages of AWESOME. Plus, the character arc of Sir Francis is fascinating. Okay, I will concede that, like the character arc of the Doctor in the classic series, it does need to be back engineered by a diligent fan, but still...

Actually, classic series Doctor Who is what this most resembles. Take one innovative, brilliant idea, (Time travel, for example, or Vampires) and enigma of a main character (say, The Doctor or Sir Francis) an initial problem (perhaps two schoolteachers getting kidnapped by an irascible time traveller, or an ancient family being stony broke) and GO. It will take you all kinds of places, raise all kinds of issues, have micro-stories within it (some of which have insane loose ends, others of which could do with a bit of pruning) create contradictions, paradoxes, and have the most charming, changeable, quixotic and prevaricating main character you will ever encounter.

Stick with it and you'll come to see the guiding principle, nay, the sheer bloody joy of Varney, the Vampyre has fuck all to do with a novel as we currently understand it. It's not about vampires, not really, it's about people and the silly things we do, and how easy we are to manipulate. And what it does,  in the simplest and purest form is by take every possible permeation of the vampire genre that you have ever encountered and run with it.

That's what I say; there has been nothing original since this. Not ever. Not at any point2.

So, go on, give it one more chance. We can do this together. In the next couple of weeks I'll be posting The Hitch-hiker's Guide to Varney the Vampyre, breaking it down into its distinct episodes in order to encourage and amuse the intrepid Varney reader. It may have many omissions, contain much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, but it will tell you highlights, central cast, genre and all the marvels of this much maligned novel - and all for less than thirty Alterian Dollars a day.

It'll be like Spark Notes, only sweary.

Don't forget your towel.

1If you have actually read the whole shebang, then do say so in the comments. We rule. We should have T-shirts. Actually, we do have t-shirts. See?
2Okay, I'll admit it, Sir Francis never actually sparkles, but... blah. Had to nit-pick, didn't you?

No comments:

Post a Comment