S.A. Swiniarski
Raven (1996)
Reviewed: 1997-11-22

He regains consciousness in a sewer, during a winter night, half frozen and covered in blood. He has no memory of who he is or what has happened to him. During the next few days he rediscovers his identity, that he is an ex-cop who used to work as a private investigator specialized in finding missing children, that his wife was gruesomely murdered, that something must have gone very wrong with his last assignment, and that he has turned into a vampire. He is introduced into a new society, chooses a name, and while the pieces of the puzzle start falling into place he sets his mind for revenge.

Steven Swiniarksi also goes by the pen name of S. Andrew Swann under which he has published the Moreau series and the Hostile Takeover trilogy, fast-paced, modern space opera. The change in name should be taken as a clue that this novel is different. Not different in style, Swiniarski still sticks religiously to the guidelines put forth in his essay on plotting, but with Raven he has ventured from his customary field of science fiction and given us a dark fantasy.

A century after Bram Stoker's Dracula, vampires seem to fascinate people more than ever, at least judging by the number of books published in what has become nearly a genre of its own. As an inevitable if unfortunate consequence of this everything surrounding the subject is terribly clichéd. Writing a new exciting novel dealing with the blood-drinking undead is hardly possible despite people's ongoing attempts. Swiniarski isn't successful either. He handles the execution of the story in his usual competent manner, but there seems to be nothing that we haven't seen in a movie or read elsewhere many times before. I can't guess how regular readers of vampire fiction would judge this book.

The novel seems to have been inspired on some level by Edgar Allan Poe, the protagonist keeps quoting from poems by the old master, but due to my lack of acquaintance with Poe's works any particular significance this might have is lost on me.

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