Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sailing on the Carpathia

Matt Forbeck
Angry Robot Books
1 March 2012
384pp B-format paperback, £7.99

28 February 2012
384pp trade paperback
$12.99 US / $14.99 CAN

28 February 2012, £4.49

That movie by James Cameron a few years back kind of cooled my interest in the Titanic.  Matt Forbeck has rekindled it.  It seems the shipwreck was only the beginning.  The real nightmare started after the Carpathia picked up the survivors.  The ship was infested with vampires trying to return to the safety of the  old world.  Can you say smorgasbord?  Now why couldn't Cameron have filmed that part of the story?  It would have made a much more interesting movie than that sappy love story.  Oh, well.  To each his own.

This is the story of Quentin Harker, Abe Holmwood, and Lucy Seward (perhaps you've heard of their parents?), who are traveling to America.  Abe and Lucy, engaged to be married, will travel the continent until Lucy starts college in the fall, at which time Abe will return home to England and wait for his bride-to-be to finish school.  Quin will seek employment in a law firm in New York. 

Except it's not that simple.  Quin is in love with Lucy.  This love story is much more interesting than the one in the movie.  Then the ship hits the iceberg.  You probably know this part of the story.  Of course, all three are rescued. 

That's when the fun starts.  There are a number of vampires who are returning to Eastern Europe, where they feel it's safer than New York.  Some of them have gotten careless and drawn attention to themselves.  This has created a bit of a power struggle in the ranks, with the leader Dushko Dragovich being challenged by the upstart Brody Murtagh.  Of course there's a female vampire stirring things up.  (I told you this love story was more interesting than the one in the movie.)

HMS Carpathia
The chapters are short, lending a sense of urgency to the story.  Forbeck shifts the viewpoint between multiple characters, major and minor, human and vampire, while keeping the focus on the trio.  The dialogue is sharp and crisp, witty and fast paced.  The chapters focusing on Lucy, Quin, and Abe read like we're eavesdropping on long time friends, each with his or her own distinct personality. Even the red shirt characters are more than just cardboard cutouts; although brief, each is given a backstory.

The imagery is often creepy.  The scene towards the end, with the hold full of sleeping vampires, was especially effective.  These are not the angst-ridden, pedophilic vampires of Twilight fame who glitter in sunlight.  These are, if you'll pardon the expression, the real deal.  They sunburn easily.

Comparisons with Jasper Kent's Danilov Chronicles are probably inevitable.  I'm a huge fan of Kent's work (see my reviews here, here, and here), and I have to say this book holds up well against them while blazing its own trail. It's a fine addition to the subgenre of historical vampire fiction.

That's not to say the book isn't without its flaws.  I thought the ending was a little over the top, although I loved the way the romantic triangle was resolved.  (Much more interesting than the movie.) 

In the chapters in which the Titanic is sinking, Forbeck gives a number of famous people who were aboard cameos.  I'm okay with that; the temptation to do so would be too great to refrain.  The one famous person who has more than a cameo is Molly Brown, nicknamed "Unsinkable" for her habit of sailing on ships destined to sink while not going down with the ship herself.  She and Lucy end up in the same lifeboat.  Once they are on the Carpathia, Ms. Brown is never heard from again.  This I have a problem with.  Forbeck departs enough from recorded history that I don't understand why he didn't include Molly Brown in the rest of the story.

That's a minor point, though.  Overall, this was a highly enjoyable vampire novel, enough so that I'd be willing to read more of Forbeck's work, and one I recommend if you like traditional vampires.  The book hits shelves and is available for download next week.  Look for it.


  1. Yeah, I could have enjoyed some throat ripping vamps in Titanic. Would have been a big step up in quality.

  2. I'll put this one on my list. Though, I don't know why Forbeck had to make the nod to the Dracula lineage surnames. Things like that always invite comparison.

    1. It's more than just a nod. There is some direct bearing on the plot. I took it to be an homage.

  3. I really enjoyed the book myself! I agree that Molly Brown's fate would have interested me. And I must say, reading the book actually made me want to go sit in the theater while Titanic 3D plays, just so I can listen to the big surround-sound noises of the ship creaking and groaning while it sinks. :D

  4. Thanks for your comments, Stephanie. I'm glad I'm not the only one who wanted to see more of Molly Brown. Maybe we can convince Matt Forbeck to write a short story of novella telling her story after she was on board the Carpathia.

  5. Replies
    1. Maybe you could include it as bonus in a limited edition of Carpathia or on a future Kickstarter project.