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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

The Queen Of Darkness
Miguel Conner
Warner/$5.99/276 pp.
ISBN: 0-446-60506-9

The vampires finally have won. Two centuries before the beginning of Miguel Conner's first novel, The Queen Of Darkness, the "Stargazers" (as they poetically call themselves) arranged a nuclear holocaust that greatly diminished the amount of light reaching Earth from the sun. Living in a few cities, the vampires are nourished by the blood of the remaining "Warm Ones" who are kept like cattle on concentration camp-like farms. Humans being humans, they occasionally get a little feisty. The charming and slightly roguish Byron, a special favorite of the all-powerful MoonQueen, is called upon to investigate the latest instigation. As often happens with charming, roguish anti-heroes, Byron runs into a beautiful and charismatic leader of the opposition who enlightens him. Byron wrestles with reality and truth, finally turning renegade and launching a true rebellion.

Conner has come up with a winning and delightful novel, although not one without a few flaws. His future world of a guild-based vampire hierarchy ruled by the Queen of Darkness, Mother of All Stargazers is an interesting one, although he ill-serves his setting by making it rather too redolent of today instead of a fictional tomorrow. (Computers don't seem to have advanced much; language has not developed at all and, in fact, seems to have regressed a bit; and Byron outrages his society by smoking cigarettes.) The pacing slows toward the end, the writing is occasionally pedestrian, and the action sequences could use a little more impact. Once you get past these minor quibbles, none of which are distracting enough to take away from the whole or are that unusual in popular fiction, the author handles the paradoxical and convoluted situation of an entire civilization based on lies with grace, style, and surprising depth with similarities to Roger Zelazny. Byron is a splendid, multidimensional creation who grows as the novel advances. The Queen Of Darkness has an almost "pulp" feel to it at times, but with most of the swashbuckling replaced with soul-searching. Its originality and fascination lie in devising something new and fresh from the iconic. Published as science fiction, its also a testament to just how impossible it has become to classify such work. There's something of the noir detective mystery to The Queen Of Darkness as well as horror, SF, and fantasy elements. Whatever you want to classify it as, it's great stuff and Miguel Conner deserves the notice of genre fans of several breeds. Don't miss this debut. -- Paula Guran

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.