by Paul Féval
adapted by Brian M. Stableford
cover by Ladrönn
Some tell of a great city of black jasper which has streets and buildings like any other city but is eternally in mourning. Some call it Selene, sometimes Vampire City, but the vampires refer to it among themselves by the names of the Sepulchre.
Written in 1867 - 30 years before Bram Stoker's Dracula - Vampire City is one of three classic vampire stories penned by Paul Féval, along with Knightshade and The Vampire Countess.
There is a little-known place which is undoubtedly the strangest in the world. The people who inhabit the barbarous lands around Belgrade sometimes call it Selene, sometimes Vampire City, but the vampires refer to it among themselves by the names of the Sepulchre and the College.
It is normally invisible to mortal eyes-and to the eyes of each of those who contrive to catch a glimpse of it, it presents a different image. Some tell of a great city of black jasper which has streets and buildings like any other city but is eternally in mourning, enveloped by perpetual gloom. Others have caught sight of immense amphitheatres capped with domes like mosques, and minarets reaching for the sky more numerous than the pines in the forest of Dinawar. Yet others have found a single circus of colossal proportions, surrounded by a triple rank of white marble cloisters lit by a lunar twilight that never gives way to day or night.
Arranged there, in mysterious order, are the sepulchral dwellings of that prodigious people which the wrath of God has placed in the margins of our world. The sons of that people, half demon and half phantom, are living and dead at the same time, incapable of reproducing themselves but also deprived of the blessing of death. Their womenfolk are ghouls, also known as oupires. Some, it is said, have sat on thrones and terrified history. Following the example of those men of iron who were oppressors of the country in the Middle Ages-and who, when beaten back, retreated to their impregnable fortresses-they maintain this sinister and splendid shelter: a citadel and place of refuge, as inviolable as the tomb...
To save her friends from the dreaded vampire lord Otto Goetzi, gothic author Ann Radcliffe and her fearless vampire hunting companions, Merry Bones the Irishman, Grey Jack the faithful old servant, the revenge-driven Doctor Magnus Szegeli, and Polly Bird, one of the vampire's earlier victims, launch an all-out attack on Selene...
"With the aid of hindsight," writes Stableford, "we can easily see in Vampire City the ultimate literary ancestor of Buffy the Vampire-Slayer. Although Radcliffe is not permitted by her gentlemanly author actually to slay any vampires with her own hand she is nevertheless the prime mover of the expedition to Selene; she watches with a distinctly proto-feminist fascination as the Irish hero carefully excises the heart from the breast of Goetzi..."
Winner of the Dracula Society's "Children of the Night" award for best novel of 1999!
Contents: La Ville Vampire by Paul Féval; Introduction, Afterword and Notes by Brian Stableford.
READ THE REVIEWS...
It is interesting to note that in his afterword Stableford considers that Bram Stoker’s DRACULA has had a much more influential effect on the state of current vampire books than any other earlier book featuring vampires have.This is not a book to be taken seriously but if you enjoy reading a Gothic eerie tale that is as surreal as it is humorous and like a sense of adventure then VAMPIRE CITY will be right up your street.
Reviewing the Evidence
The important thing to know about Vampire City is that, as Stableford himself points out in the afterword, it's an interesting and relevant adjunct to the vampire mythos as we know it today. It shows just how influenced we have been by Bram Stoker's creation, almost to the exclusion of any other source. If you're interested in vampires and their history then I recommend Vampire City for your learned shelves. If you're not, then this won't change your mind.
This is well worth a read, so long as you remember that the language is somewhat antiquated. However it is a genuinely funny and surreal little novel with some incredibly unusual lore.