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The Delicate Dependency

A vampire novel by Michael Talbot

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A Different Sort of Vampire Novel

  • Mar 25, 2010
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The Delicate Dependency- A Novel of the Vampire Life

Michael Talbot, 1982, 406 pages

Caution some spoilers ahead.

I found this book among NPR’s Margot Adler’s list of the seventy five vampire novels she had read in six months. The title intrigued me more than her brief review because I’ve been playing around with the vampire/human interdependency concept in my own writing.  As I read it I found that Talbot had touched on a couple of other of my favorite themes as well.

First I want to say that this is an odd book in a way.  It was written in 1982 and takes place in the 1880’s. There is a sort of unevenness about the writing with the beginning feeling a bit ponderous as we learn Dr. John Gladstone’s back-story, family history, and his first meeting as a child with the “angel”. There is a definite Victorian feel to the writing here, which seems to lighten up and take on a somewhat more modern tone until  by the end one can almost see the action film version of the story unfolding with chase scenes and daring escapes.

It is interesting too, that central to the plot is Dr. Gladstone’s invention of a deadly virus for which no antigens can be produced, and hence no cure can be created. The book was written during the time period when the HIV virus was first being identified and I can’t help but wonder about the synchronicity in that.

The real strength in this novel is the sense of *otherness* about the vampire characters. Despite looking very human, Talbot’s vampires are so far removed from humans by their antiquity that there can be no meeting of the minds, much less the heart. They are intellectually and emotionally divorced from their humanity in a very believable way.  Despite that kind of detachment from the rabble of humanity, they are the keepers of humanity’s cultural past; hoarding away literature, art and science that mankind may have created, but like children, carelessly tossed aside. They are a quite separate species, with their own languages and values, but they are among us, an invisible force acting upon our history.

 It is an interesting paradox that while these vampires are manipulative, game-playing and indifferent to the human mental suffering they cause as they pursue their own goals, they are at the same time preserving the most valuable of what humanity has produced.

The author’s characterization is well done, though I feel he could have tied up some loose ends in terms of relationships.  The one relationship I would love to have seen explored more was between the two main vampire characters; there’s a suggestion of conflict, of something complex, but Talbot never goes much further than that. The story is told in first person from Dr. Gladstone’s POV so maybe that was a limiting factor, or maybe Talbot felt if he let us see too much into the psyches of his vampires they would lose some of the mystery he portrayed so well.

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March 25, 2010
Oh, wow. This is a great way to start your reviewing on the site. I can't wait to see what else you'll do! This book sounds interesting and I must admit that I haven't heard of it before. You mention that there's a seemingly indirect parallel between the virus in the novel and HIV. There have been a number of books that have used the condition of vampirism as a metaphor for venereal diseases. How do you feel about that kind of an allegory? Some people I know have felt that it's too derivative, while others felt that if the story is well-written that it can be quite intriguing as well as educational to people who don't know what it was like to live in the '80s when AIDS and HIV first came onto the scene.
March 26, 2010
Thank you!
Yes, it seems that approaching vampirism as a sort of venereal disease, or at least a blood-borne disease, may have been more popular during the 19th century when there was a lot of fear and no known cure for std's. I've read too, that fears around consumption (TB) also had an impact on the wasting away pattern that vampire's victims exhibit in the literature.
Personally I prefer looking at vampirism as a sort of survival adaptation rather than a pathology. Even though the condition is transmitted by blood it's kind of fun to think of it as a natural means by which certain individuals adapt to transcend death. At least a way to preserve some of our genetic code in case of, I dunno, cataclysmic plague that wipes out all the mortals? Oh, now there's an interesting post-apocalyptic plot; all that remain behind are the vampires and they can't reproduce on their own.
I think I'll just file that one away for now.... ;o)
March 26, 2010
Sounds a bit like Matheson's "I Am Legend". As for your mention of Tuberculosis, I've read a lot of materials about the connection between it and the belief and vampirism and I cover it briefly in my vampire mythology review.

By the way, I've removed the mandatory three review criteria on the community, so you're now an official member. Feel free to add this review to either my community or Cafe Libri. I can't wait to see what else you'll review...
About the reviewer
Donna G Omo ()
Ranked #462
Iwrite when Ican get out of my own way.
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About this book



Author: Michael Talbot
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Horror, Drama, Science Fiction
Date Published: 1982
Format: Novel

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