So continues my Halloween reading (finished before Halloween but not posted until afterwards). Fangland by John Marks is yet another variation of the classic Dracula tale with network news as one of the targets. Evangeline Harker is an assistant producer on The Hour, a successful, venerable network news show that resembles 60 Minutes (with good reason since Marks used to be a producer on that show). Newly engaged and disliking her job, she heads to Romania on an assignment to vet the mysterios Ion Torgu, supposedly a major Eastern European crime lord. Once there, Harker meets Clementine Spence who tries to warn her about evil in the area by telling her about her former experiences as a type of missionary. Harker meets Torgu and goes off with him and is infected by his virus-like type of vampirism. She disappears and reappears months later with little recollection of what happened. Meanwhile, the virus appears to be infecting the offices of The Hour (that happen to overlook Ground Zero) back in New York when people and equipment begin behaving strangely and mysterious deaths and suicides start to occur.
I think that this book would have been better if Marks had stuck with one idea and developed it. In addition to the Dracula adaptation, he tries to make statements about NYC in a post-September 11 world as well as pointed, insider jabs at documentary news shows and network politics. The storylines don’t blend successfully. The biggest failure is that he leaves crucial details vague. I assume he did this deliberately, but it was the wrong decision in my opinion. We never quite find out what happened to Evangeline when she was with Torgu. There is mention of some “obscenity” that she does that protects her from him, but what Marks describes doesn’t seem that obscene, so I’m unsure what the obscenity was. The end is vague as well. Something happens…but what is unclear. This vagueness is a problem when Torgu doesn’t use fangs and turn people into vampires the “traditional” way: what he does with the string of words he constantly chants (locations of horrific massacres throughout history) is unclear. Marks is trying to say something about terrorism and the allure of death and biological agents (I think), but honestly, I’m not sure what.
The format is a bit confusing as well. The story is told from multiple points of view through diary entries, email and narrative. The story is framed by the account of someone who is entirely peripheral to the story.
This novel has gotten really good reviews, which baffles me. Readers hail it as the best adaptation of Dracula ever and laud Marks for the profound things he is saying. What book did I read? It was hard to get into, hard to follow and took me longer than I thought to read.
Read Stoker’s Dracula instead or some of Anne Rice’s first few novels about Lestat (I personally was always more partial to The Vampire Lestat over Interview with a Vampire. But that’s just me).