Review by Imaginos, submitted on 16-Dec-1993

"Nightshade" by Jack Butler -- A Report

"Nightshade" (c) 1989 by Jack Butler
The Atlantic Monthly Press
19 Union Square West
New York, NY 10003
ISBN 0-87113-315-6,
hardback, $18.95

"There's a vampire on Mars, and he's the good guy."

So states the first sentence of the liner blurb for "Nightshade" by Jack Butler. The statement, which is and isn't true, is a perfect match for the novel, which is and isn't about John Shade, perhaps the last vampire in existence.

The story starts in 1777, and shows us John Shade's death and transformation. From there it jumps to some unspecified time in the twenty-second century. By now, the Earth has become thoroughly Americanized, and this federation of economic democracy has placed two colonies on Mars. This was done by tenting over the craters Hellas and Argyre.

It is in the colony of Hellas Crater that the rest of the story takes place. By turns cyberpunk, horror novel, thriller, biting critique and philosophy, it shows us John Shade's recruitment into, and eventual control of, the nascent revolutionary underground of Hellas, and its ensuing results.

We learn more of John Shade, and his companions Jennie Dark the Jangler, Papillon des Enfers (Pappy to her friends), Mandrake the Artificial Intelligence and Mandrake's friend, Benjamin. The writing style is wonderfully done, mixing as it does straight forward storytelling, myth-making, poetry, and lyrical prose. There is humor here, as well, both dark and light. There are puns, for those who like them, and the slang of the twenty-second century.

We even see the author as a historical figure, a poet and the namesake of a new religion. I would have expected this to grate on my nerves, but in the author's deft handling, it isn't.

What this story is not is light entertainment. Don't expect to read it and forget it. I don't think that "Nightshade" will appeal to everyone (where Anne Rice writes Romance, Jack Butler writes Philosophy), but I do believe that it will affect even those who dislike it, just so long as they read all of it. Parts of this novel will be with me for years to come, and I expect to be rereading it regularly.

I will not delve deeper into the plot of this novel. What I will do is to give it my highest recommendation, and suggest that if you can find it, buy it, even if you have to buy it in hardback.

RATING: Five fangs out of five. :-[ :-[ :-[ :-[ :-[

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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