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Chuck Wendig
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Charles L. Grant

The Universe of Horror Volume 1: The Soft Whisper of the Dead

The Universe of Horror Volume 1: The Soft Whisper of the Dead - Charles L. Grant The Soft Whisper of the Dead is another re-read for me, and it's another of Grant's books that I first read almost 20 years ago. I remember not thinking much of the book at the time, enough so that as I was reading it this time, I remembered almost nothing about the plot. This might have been a good thing, since I didn't have any specific memories to affect the experience which, it turned out, was a pretty good one.

There's nothing particularly original about this novel, since Grant takes all of the familiar tropes of classic vampire movies and throws them all together. The book is intended to be an homage of those very movies, which is stated clearly in the foreword to the novel, so it's not a disappointment to find something so familiar. In a way, the story can be viewed as a retelling of the original Dracula story, just with different characters. It doesn't break any new ground, but, as Grant notes in the foreword, it didn't intend to. If nothing else, it was written as a response to vampire novels of the time it was published (1982) where the vampires were viewed as tragic and brooding instead of cold-blooded and terrifying, so Grant was looking to retread old ground in his own way. And he succeeded in a big way. Of all his books thus far, this was the one that really captured me and compelled me to read through to see how the story would end.

Grant's prose, while it doesn't necessarily feel dated, does have a sort of flow to it that's reminiscent of older fiction. When he takes his usual storytelling style and applies it to a turn-of-the-century vampire story, it winds up being a perfect fit. Setting the story in Oxrun Station is also a perfect fit, since he had already established the town as a place where strange and inexplicable things happen; with this novel, we start to see where those things may have originated.

With this novel, I recognized Grant's skills at characterization. His character names are somewhat plain and unmemorable, enough so that in nearly all of his novels I've gotten lost trying to remember who was who when the scene changed, but it's easy to identify characters by their mannerisms. I may not remember the name of the female vampire in the novel, or even the main male protagonist, but I recognize how they carry and present themselves. This has been true of the last few novels of his I've read, but I came to realize it with this particular book.

It's been fun reading Grant's books in order, but from here I'm going to break from his chronology and jump straight into the next two books in this series, about werewolves and mummies. It makes the most sense, and there are only two other books in between the first and second book. I just hope they will be as good as this one was.