Book Review- Necroscope by Brian Lumley

Title: Necroscope

Author: Brian Lumley

Format: Paperback edition by Orb Books

Published: originally 1986, Orb Edition 2008


I must confess.  The Harry Keogh/Necroscope books are somewhat legendary amongst readers of horror/occult type works. That’s not the confession.  What I must reveal is that, while an avid reader at the time the series debuted and was initially popular, I did not read it until recently.  Not really sure before why I didn’t, it always appealed to me when I’d see it in stores, something else would just win out over it.  Now that I’ve finally read it, I can say that I can now offer several reasons I didn’t finish it and likely won’t read the remainder of the series.

For those unfamiliar, Necroscope is the first in a series from Brian Lumley. The book is billed as focusing on one Harry Keogh, a rather adventurous individual who has the ability to essentially mine the memories and minds of the deceased and utilize information gathered in said way.  The crux of the story is there is an evil being that is wheedling its way back into existence by using Dragosani, a Soviet agent who also has the same abilities Harry does, called necromancy.  The book is essentially the origin story of both Harry and Dragosani and the conflict that will arise between Harry and those known as Vamphyri that I am assuming is at the core of the entire series.

This book proved not to be a good read for me on more than one level. While Mr. Lumley seems to be an accomplished, even poetic writer, even conjuring connection to some of my favorite Pulp writers as I read, Necroscope on the whole is entirely too long.  Also, although the build up is that readers will get to see Harry Keogh develop and grow into this powerful necromancer, and you get that, that’s really a misdirection.  The majority of the first volume focuses on Dragosani and his origins and his connection to the beastie in the ground. And when I say focuses, I mean to the point that the majority of the first half to three quarters of the book is aimed solely at clearly defining Dragosani.  The snippets we get of Harry are short and instead of painting someone who has potential to be an occult warrior, the Harry we get to meet is rather a distracted dullard that seems to be sort of caught up in the everyone else’s world, his life being shaped by those around him due to his abilities more than himself at all.  I had very little investment at all in Harry and had wanted to read the book, the entire series, to get engaged in this great hero, not an issue ridden Soviet agent with mother country issues.

Combined with the skewed focus, the sections concerning Dragosani, and even the shorter sections focused on Harry, also tended to drift into boredom inducing, providing far more facts and minutia than was necessary to make these characters full and robust.   Also the framing structure used for the book, that of an individual in a clandestine agency being visited by a flickering ghost from the future and sharing the events of the book, may not have been cliche when the book was originally published, but it seemed heavy and pointless and forced upon my reading it today.

As mentioned previously, I did not even finish the book.  Having said that, I can see how this novel would appeal to some people.  I went into it expecting one thing and seeking that one thing as that is the sort of book I like to read, one with a hero who, though flawed, is clearly defined and engaging, and this book did not present that within the first 260 pages.   So, although I won’t be reading more Harry Keogh, I can honestly say that Lumley’s ability to write and the fact that this series has been so popular proves that this is someone’s cup of blood.  With that in mind, I give it a 3 out 5 pages.  Definitely not for everyone and I’m not the person to ask what I think about it.  Using my own personal gun associated measuring stick, This gets a 2 out 6 Bullets from me.  Worth the reading if it catches you in the first fifty pages, a waste of time if it doesn’t.


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