Matter of Taste, A

by Fred Saberhagen
Review Copyright (c) 1991 Evelyn C. Leeper

This is the fifth of Saberhagen's "Dracula" series (also known as his "Old Friend of the Family" series). (The first four are THE HOLMES-DRACULA FILE [1978], AN OLD FRIEND OF THE FAMILY [1979], THORN [1980], and DOMINION [1982].) The idea of a good vampire was certainly unusual when Saberhagen wrote the first one, but Saberhagen had already toyed with the concept once before. His DRACULA TAPE [1975] was a retelling of Bram Stoker's DRACULA-- from Dracula's point of view. For whatever reason (poor distribution may have contributed), that work vanished after a couple of years. When Saberhagen revived the idea (so to speak), he started fresh, and in what was certainly a good move commercially included Sherlock Holmes as well. Whether Saberhagen initially envisioned a new Holmes series rather than a vampire series is not clear. This time the series persisted, at least until 1982, when it went into hiding and has only now resurfaced, almost a decade later, with A MATTER OF TASTE.

Alas, the series, like the main character, may be getting a little long in the tooth. (Sorry, I couldn't resist that.) Once again, the central character is Dracula, under the name of Matthew Maule, still protecting the same family we first met in THE HOLMES-DRACULA FILE. The story is really two interleaved stories--one of Dracula's origin and early life after death, and one of the present, where bad vampires are threatening Dracula's "nephew" and the latter's fiancee. The origin story was by far the more interesting of the two, though its historical setting seems influenced as much by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's "Saint Germain" series and Les Daniels's "Sebastian" books as by the Dracula legend. This is interesting, since I suspect that their success in the period between Saberhagen's fourth and fifth books may be due to a revival in interest in vampires caused by Saberhagen's series in the first place.

Even with this similarity in the historical story, however, I found the modern story more an interruption to what I considered the primary story than a story in its own right. Had Saberhagen published the historical story by itself as a novella (or even as a short novel), the story would have flowed much more smoothly and achieved a higher level and a wider appeal. As it is, I can recommend A MATTER OF TASTE only for fans of the rest of the series. I might further note that this is the first to appear in hardback. If this were a great book, it might be worth getting in hardback; as it is, you might as well wait for the paperback and have a matching set.

Fanged Films

Denmark, 1913
USA, 1936
Dracula's Daughter

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  

Drawn to Vamps?