Wednesday, October 19, 2011

All Hallow's Eve Read #2: The Second Bad Vampire

"Well, and here we are."

Nephran Malinari
Brian Lumley, Necroscope E-Branch: Invaders

He doesn't say much. He doesn't have to. That's how much of a bad vampire Nephran Malinari is.

Brian Lumley has written more novels than anyone can comfortably hold on one shelf, and even more short fiction. Though the original Necroscope defies traditional vampire tropes, and employs far more science fiction than previous horror novels in its massive scope, it is not my favorite. The fact that I started the Necroscope series out of order might explain my close affinity to the E-Branch novels, the books devoted to searching for, and destroying, the three biggest vampire threats to come out of Starside since Faethor Ferenczy: Lord Nephran Malinari, Lady Vavara, and Lord Szwart. 

The Necroscope series originally involved the Necroscope, Harry Keogh, a man who could speak telepathically to the dead with something called "deadspeak", and could traverse our dimension in time and space using the Mobius Continuum. I had never encountered anything so ambitious in my young life, but by the time I got to Harry Keogh and his original adventures, I had already read through the entire end of the series: the Necroscope novels involving the new Necroscope, Jake Cutter, and the newest generation of vampire hunters. E-Branch has been, and always will be, the world's first line of defense against extraterrestrial invaders, be they vampires from another dimension (Necroscope through Necroscope E-Branch: Avengers) or aliens bent on consuming all of our precious resources (Necroscope: The Touch). What makes E-Branch so special? It takes a particularly talented group of people to discover these invaders and deal with them in the quiet, unorthodox manner that is necessary to keep the general public from the knowledge that the world almost always teeters on the brink of destruction. The operatives at E-Branch are professional telepaths, pre-cogs (pre-cognition), "lie-detectors", the environmentally sensitive and computer hackers. E-Branch is a section of the British government that no one is supposed to know about. Even MI-6 follows their orders. E-Branch is not unlike Kota Hirano's Hellsing Organization, the only difference being that Hellsing finds the employment of vampires useful, whereas its customary in E-Branch to put someone down like a lame horse if they have come into too  much contact with a vampire, even if it was only mental contact.

Lumley's vampires rank as some of the worst vampire villains in the lore. They are ugly, beautiful, intelligent, deadly, and completely unpredictable. A Wamphyri has all the natural feelings and emotions as a human's, only magnified by their parasitic leeches: lust, greed, hatred, anger, even love. The stronger the leech, the better the vampire, and everything about a Wamphyri Lord or Lady should be considered highly suspect. The uglier the vampire is, the chance is very high that the vampire is not very strong or even very confident. A very dangerous vampire may not grow third eyes on their shoulders keep lesser vampires from sneaking up on them. A very dangerous vampire does not need to project, yet there are even serious exceptions to this rule. A very weak vampire might have every reason to appear beautiful. A vampire who appears to have everything under control is less likely to lose it all in a clan war, like Lady Vavara, or Devataki Skullguise. A very hideous vampire could be just as dangerous as a very confident vampire, such as Vasagai the Suck, Lord Szwart or the original Lord Shaitan (not to be confused with his great-great-great-grandson, Shaithis). A vampire can either be born a Wamphyri Lord (Yulian Bodescu, Nephran Malinari), given an egg in order to ascend (Lord Nestor, Thibor Ferenczy), or ascend through natural selection (Korath Mindsthrall). The most frightening aspect of the character of the Wamphyri Lord or Lady is that whole novels have been given over to the detailed treatment of their lifestyles, down to the mundane every-day tasks their servants and monsters perform for them. Aside from the fact that they could own our world with very little effort, after reading about them long enough, they almost become domesticated. In one novel, Yulian Bodescu hosted his aunt, uncle and cousin for a week, doing chores and helping out, until he slowly ate everybody.

Nephran Malinari is one of the best, most developed vampire characters (and almost all of Lumley's vampires are "fleshed out", as it were). His first name means "A wrong that can never be righted". His mother named him that because of the irreversible nature of the leech and what her capabilities were as a Lady. His last name is literally the Son of Malin. His vices are sex, blood, vengeance, more sex, more blood, and nice music. In terms of appearance, he couldn't complain. He's tall, "but not too tall", alienly handsome with long black hair that curls to his waist "like a bird of prey", with bangs that stick out behind pointed ears. Malinari has a lineage very few vampires can boast: he was the love child of a human healer woman who was turned Wamphyri, and the Wamphyri lord Malin. Old Malin died accidentally at the hands of his wife while Malinari was a child. His mother, despondent and very old, left her son the entirety of their fortune in Malstack and road a flying monster into the sun, burning as she went. As traumatic as that might have been for young Nephran Malinari (then about two hundred years old), he went on to be a very successful Lord. There is just one problem with Nephran Malinari: thanks to his mother's talents and his father's mentalism, he has a strong, irresistible, terrifying, and uncontrollable telepathy. He has a very strong natural ability to shield himself from prying minds, but has zero natural ability for blocking out the thoughts of others, which come piling in on him day and night, asleep and awake, whether he wants them to or not. It causes him to have severe migraines, which he believes he also inherited from Old Malin. Nothing can soothe those migraines quite like the gentle playing of the violin or the low tunes of a Starside minstrel. Malinari tends to take his rage and pain out on those around him.

Malinari's one failing, aside from his natural one, is his sharp tongue is paired with a penchant for terrible escape plans. Before Malinari even gets to our world, he gets Vavara and Szwart chased into the ice chambers of the frozen mountains of Starside. Once he gets to our world, he is repeatedly chased down by E-Branch, though they are aided by the unstoppable Necroscope. Malinari was almost always responsible for his own failures, and the failures of his two refugee partners, Lady Vavara and Lord Szwart.

You know, I always say the only good vampire is a bad vampire. Brian Lumley's vampires are anything but good. They don't sparkle in the sunlight. If Nephran Malinari ever met Edward Cullen, he would slap his face off with his bare hand, stick his elongated, fleshy fingers inside his ears and wiggle them around until Edward's brain was goo, which Malinari could then suck out through his eyeballs like caviar. Then Malinari would use Edward's corpse to feed his mushroom garden, imprinting his vampire DNA on every single spore, and I would laughThat is what a real vampire does to his enemies, and that's what makes Brian Lumley's character so bloody awesome!  Though Mr. Lumley is retired, he has left me with enough of his work to last me a very long time, and enough bad vampires to destroy this world's bad rash of trendy blood-suckers.

Brian Lumley reading his short story "The Thief Immortal"
at Horror Con. 2010 at the Royal Albion Hotel.

The Halloween tradition started this year by Neil Gaiman called All Hallow's Read continues here, at The Squealing Nerd.  

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