Winter, 1862. A malevolent spirit roams the cold and gloomy streets of Victorian London, the vampiric ghost of John Polidori, the onetime physician of the mad, bad and dangerous Romantic poet Lord Byron. Polidori is also the supernatural muse to his niece and nephew, poet Christina Rossetti and her artist brother Dante Gabriel.
But Polidori's taste for debauchery has grown excessive. He is determined to possess the life and soul of an innocent young girl, the daughter of a veterinarian and a reformed prostitute he once haunted. And he has resurrected Dante's dead wife, transforming her into a horrifying vampire. The Rossettis know the time has come — Polidori must be stopped. Joining forces with the girl's unlikely parents, they are plunged into a supernatural London underworld whose existence they never suspected.
These wildly mismatched allies — a strait-laced animal doctor, and ex-prostitute, a poet, a painter, and even the Artful Dodger-like young daughter — must ultimately choose between the banality and constraints of human life and the unholy immortality that Polidori offers. Sweeping from high society to grimy slums, elegant West End salons to pre-Roman catacombs beneath St. Paul's cathedral, Hide Me Among The Graves blends the historical and the supernatural in a dazzling, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride.
First published in 1985, this legendary and still distinctive novel may attract new fans, although the postnuclear-war theme has become somewhat dated. Technology has vanished in a barbaric, 22nd-century California run by a Sidney Greenstreet lookalike messiah, Norton Jaybush, who boasts a fancifully colossal "night club of the damned" in Venice and his own Holy City in Irvine. His young hippie followers, aka "Jaybirds," drift in a hallucinatory Philip K. Dick-style dream, while "redeemers" strive to rescue them. The serviceable plot focuses largely on the efforts of the hero, Gregorio Rivas, a musician and former redeemer who lives in "Ellay," to bring back a runaway. The film Mad Max (1980) seems to have inspired many of the images in this rundown world, such as "an old but painstakingly polished Chevrolet body mounted on a flat wooden wagon drawn by two horses." Powers has a nice knack for puns, e.g., a "hemogoblin," a balloonlike monster who sucks blood from its victims, and "fifths," paper money issued by a "Distiller of the Treasury." The antireligious tone of the book, not uncommon in science fiction of the era, is a refreshing change from much of today's blatantly proselytizing SF (see feature, "Other Worlds, Suffused with Religion," Apr. 16). At times Powers's heavy prose style can be trying, but his engaging conceptions will keep most readers turning the pages.