Book of Common Dread, The

The Book of Common Dread
Review by Pandora, submitted on 22-Oct-1994

The Book of Common Dread, Brent Monahan St. Martin's Press, 1993 ISBN: 0-312-95359-3

A wealthy donor bequeaths his collection of rare books to the Princeton Library; among them are two priceless ancient documents called the Ahriman scrolls which predate Christ by 600 years. One of the scrolls, "Physics," contains astonishingly accurate scientific information about the world and the universe--theories that won't be discovered for hundreds, even thousands of years. Can the other, entitled "Metaphysics," which discusses religion and the existence of "dark forces" which threaten humanity, also be taken as truth? There are those who do believe; those who have deliberately destroyed previous copies of the scrolls throughout history; those who cannot risk the exposure the scrolls would bring should they ever be successfully translated and revealed to the world.

Vincent DeVilbiss is highly interested in these scrolls. His very existence depends upon their destruction and he will stop at nothing to fulfill his mission. Not that he has a choice--his master demands it, the disembodied voice who speaks to Vincent only at night and who supplies him with the mysterious elixir which keeps Vincent young and healthy after over 500 years. This, human blood, and the occasional chili cheeseburger and fries sustain him and keep him in the ranks of the Undead.

Posing as a healer and channeler, Vincent attracts the attention of a lonely, beautiful heiress, Frederika Vanderveen, who seeks him out after her own failed attempts at necromancy. Frederika is desperate to contact her father in the hereafter and is prepared to pay any price to do so. DeVilbiss exploits Frederika's weakness to assist him in obtaining the scrolls and also to attain his own very personal plans for the future. Vincent has an individual, rebellious nature which is restless in domination, and for years he has been scheming to break his bonds. The key to his freedom is the successful duplication of the elixir which gives him eternal health and invulnerability. Thanks to modern pharmacology, this key is now in his grasp. Attracted to Frederika's stunning beauty, Vincent soon revises his plan to include her and uses her as a guinea pig to test the synthetic drug.

Frederika has another admirer--a fellow co-worker at the Princeton Library, Simon Penn, who happens to work in the Rare Manuscripts section of the library. The section which houses the Ahriman scrolls. Simon worships Frederika from afar, never daring to approach her, and his interest peaks when he happens upon her one night in the cemetery stealing dirt from her fathers grave. Shortly afterwards she comes to see him in the Rare Manuscripts section, asking for a copy of a rare grimoire, ostensibly for a friend who is a graduate student. In the meantime, Simon has left his domineering girlfriend and is looking for a place to stay temporarily. Frederika has been known to let a room in her house, and they work out a deal. Simon is inextricably pulled into the web of Frederika's spell when he espies her performing an act of necromancy from the grimoire. Sensing that she is psychologically disturbed, Simon worries when he sees her becoming involved with DeVilbiss. A man he recognizes as embodying evil, although he does not know why.

Simon and Frederika are pulled into a world of intrigue that is supernatural in scope, but as real and deadly as murder. Neither of their lives will ever be the same after meeting Vincent DeVilbiss.

The Book of Common Dread is a compelling page-turner, with numerous plot twists and turns that will keep you guessing right up to the surprising and shocking climax. Monahan successfully adds another theory of vampirism to the pot, a vampirism that is physical in basis, but supernatural in intent. This vampire is not "dead," but rather is given an elixir of eternal life in exchange for becoming an agent of forces unknown and evil. The need for blood, the need to hunt the human race, strips the vampire of its humanity, thereby deepening the bond with the masters. The sun will not destroy this vampire, but will age it, forcing it to keep to the shadows and the night. What Vincent DeVilbiss does not bargain for, however, is that humanity does not easily die in the Undying.


Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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