Suzy McKee Charnas’s The Vampire Tapestry features a bloodsucker unlike any other in fiction. He has a mosquitoesque device in his tongue, instead of fangs. He appears to be very long-lived, though he recalls little of his past lives and knows nothing of his origins.
He also meets some unusual humans in this 1980 novel, comprised of related novellas.
Title: The Vampire Tapestry.
Author: Suzy McKee Charnas
Original Publication Date: November 1980
Cover Price (reissue) $11.17 U.S. $16.98 Canadian
The book is also available used and in a digital edition.
A (relatively) plausible vampire poses as an academic, feeds, and fears discovery.
“A Musical Interlude,” the second-last chapter, presents an intense, suspenseful visit to the opera, with a performer fated to meet the vampire at a weak moment.
I could not quite buy Weyland’s lecture on the “hypothetical” nature of vampires in “The Ancient Mind at Work” (his audience thinks he’s speculating, when he in fact discusses his real nature). As an attempt to elucidate on the nature of Charnas’s vampire, I found it clumsy. She handles a direct discussion of Weyland’s character and kind better in “Unicorn Tapestry.”
Originality: 4/6 Vampires may be the most overused genre creatures, and were so even in 1980. Still, this book manages an original twist on the type, quite different from either Stoker’s embodiments of hellish evil or Anne Rice’s presagers* of Goth angst. The best of this book reads like good conventional fiction, with an instinctive predator thrown among the mundane characters.
Story: 4/6 The stories are uneven. Some chapters work very well; others dragged.
Characterization: 5/6 Undead (?) Edward Weyland works. His first adversary, Katje de Groot, has a plausible background which parallels Weyland’s in odd and unexpected ways. I could not get, however, a good sense of Reese, a fairly pathetic wannabee Satanist who nevertheless commands the loyalty of numerous others and may even have some kind of inside knowledge or power. This is not a minor quibble, for he plays a significant role in two of the chapters.
Imagery: 5/6 Charnas writes very well, particular in the final chapters of the book.
Emotional Response: 4/6 This varied wildly with the stories. Moments in “The Land of the Lost” and “A Musical Interlude” proved intense. In other places, I found my reaction dulled by supporting characters who were not consistently interesting, and a central character who tended (with some reason, mind you) to be self-absorbed.
Overall Score: 5/6.
In total, The Vampire Tapestry receives 32/42
*I really wanted to use the word presagent but, nope, it’s presager.