78 Children of the Night, Dan Simmons

This is Simmons’ latest entry into the vampire Olympics (his previous one being the mega-volt Carrion Comfort), and it weighs in with a Silver medal, at least with this judge. I liked it a lot better than the last novel of his I read, Summer of Night, which wasn’t bad, per se, but suffered from being too slavishly tied to the Stephen King-ish subject and style of It and “The Body.” Children of the Night is vaguely related to¬†Summer of Night–a main character in Children of the Night was a child in Summer of Night (wait a minute…yeah, that’s right. Weird. Seems that it should be the other way around given the titles). Although Vlad Tsepes is a character, he’s very ancillary. The story is told from the viewpoint of a woman nematologist who, while providing humanitarian aid in Romania, stumbles upon a child of the “family.” The child has been abandoned by its parents, and only survives through periodic blood transfusions. The doctor, through professional curiosity and personal generosity, adopts the child and brings it back with her to the U.S. and her work at the Center for Disease Control. But the family, whom the child had been stolen from, wants him back, because he is the heir apparent. And the chase is on. What Simmons brings anew to the vampire games is a strictly plausible, even science-fictional, treatment of vampirism. And, while he’s firmly set his story in the modern world–post-Ceneasque regime in Romania, post-AIDS–he pulls a twist on the normal AIDS/vampire nexus. For Simmons, the “curse” of vampirism breeds hope for an AIDS cure, so the story games a meta-level above the pure “rescue/protect the child” storyline, as the child represents a hope for humanity. But that isn’t enough. Although there is no specific fault I can pick with Children of the Night, as a whole it fails in plotting. Too many things resolve around chance occurrences. Nothing quite so obvious as a deus ex macchina, but on the level of the “idiot plot.” Because Simmons is such a masterful writer, one doesn’t really notice this while reading, caught up in the roller coaster ride, and because he uses his research in such original ways, the ideas remain interesting. But he only gets the Silver medal; Kim Newman is holding the Gold for his masterpiece, Anno Dracula.

[Finished 2 November 1993]

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