Review: Necroscope: Harry and the Pirates

Posted: May 28, 2010 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Brian Lumley, Horror, Collection, Short Fiction

As you will all recall, our Fantasy 202 post involved a lot of Horror. It is an under-appreciated genre that contains one of (in our opinions) the best writers out there: Brian Lumley. His novels, over the years, have continually been able to impress our critical minds. With the paperback due out soon, Tor sent us a copy of Lumley’s NECROSCOPE: HARRY AND THE PIRATES (Amazon).

Upon first taking the book in hand, the reader will first notice two things. First, the cover is done by the true Necroscope series artist, Bob Eggleton (one of our favorite artists)… and yet it seems almost YA. Second, PIRATES is very thin, only 189 pages. Suffice it to say, PIRATES is not YA. It contains two novellas, and a vignette (as Lumley calls it) that are set during the Lost Years of Harry Keogh’s life. For the uninitiated, the Lost Years mark the 8ish year period between books 2 and 3. We’ll say right here that if you haven’t read NECROSCOPE (Amazon) and VAMPHYRI! (Amazon) you shouldn’t read PIRATES yet. It just won’t make enough sense to you. If you find yourself in that camp, do yourself a favor and buy those novels yesterday.

Harry Keogh is the Necroscope, meaning that amongst his several ESP powers, he can talk to the dead. In the first of the novellas “For the Dead Travel Slowly” Harry has returned to the area of his youth in an attempt to find his missing son and wife. While there, he encounters an ancient evil in the forests that is responsible for hundreds of horrors over the centuries. It is a terrific tale in which we are shown a jaded and vulnerable Harry. His body has been destroyed (literally, he inhabits a new body at this point per the end of VAMPHYRI!), and his family his missing. His feelings of loss and frustration are palpable. The plot of the story itself, as well as its resolution, are executed in only the way Lumley can manage.

The second novella “Harry and the Pirates” continues with Harry looking for his family, but becoming sidetracked when a long dead pirate wishes to tell Harry a story. Who doesn’t like a good pirate tale? Of course Harry listens. As the reader would expect, the tale becomes more strange, and Harry begins to feel that something is wrong. Again, another fantastic novella, though the ending will throw some people off if they haven’t read beyond the first two novels in the series.

NECROSCOPE is for fans of Lumley who are looking for more Lost Years tales to enjoy.

The final vignette “End Piece: Old Man with a Blade” is only a few pages, and follows the PoV of Death as it watches Harry. There are some clever insights here, but no real meat. The purpose of PIRATES is the first two novellas.

Lumley has a unique way of writing. His descriptions of horror are truly horrific, and yet he can still manage to inject witticisms when the situations are in need. PIRATES won’t win any new reads for Lumley, but it will give fans of his work (and there are many of them) some more Lost Years tales to enjoy. If you are a huge fan of Lumley, you probably wouldn’t have thought twice about paying the $24 for the 189 page hardback. We wouldn’t have (especially Steve, who is an extreme Lumley fan). However, if you are a more cost-conscious fan, then wait to pick up the paperback that comes out on July 20.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: Yup, but not a ton
  • Violence: Oh yes. And it is always so well described.
  • Sex: Some mentions to it (especially in the first novella), but nothing like in you would find in Lumley’s other novels


  • Blicko says:

    Great to see Lumley get some love, he's one of my favorite horror writers. One thing I noticed though! He does like to use an inordinate amount of exclamation points! Especially in his early novels!
    That admittedly minor quibble aside, his vamphyri mythology that builds throughout his Necroscope books is second to none, fascinating stuff.

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