Tim's Reviews > Hide Me Among the Graves

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers
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Mar 31, 2012

really liked it

The unwary might stumble upon Tim Powers' new novel, "Hide Me Among the Graves" and think: latecomer to the vampire craze. Powers' longtime fans, though, will recognize the book as a sequel to his excellent 1989 novel, "The Stress of Her Regard," but with those readers, belated recognition of the relationship would be understandable: nowhere on the "Hide Me" cover is the link between the books mentioned, so buyer beware. Does it matter? Yes and no. The reader who has completed "Stress" will be far more comfortable with Powers' complex take on Victorian era (and before) vampirism, and recognizing the handful of recurring characters will boost enjoyment. But newcomers to Powers still are likely to enjoy the new book plenty, and aren't likely to be too confused. It's like the fact that knowledge of Keats, Shelley and Lord Byron is helpful to enjoyment of "Stress," and familiarity with painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his sister poet Christina Rossetti and poet Algernon Swinburne — I had next to no such familiarity — is a boon to reading "Hide Me."

In any event, Powers has returned to familiar unholy/holy ground here, and it's very welcome. "Hide Me Among the Graves" is just his second novel since 2001, and 2006's "Three Days to Never" was, by his standards, mediocre. This new novel seems at first merely a welcome return to Powers' 19th-century England under the sway of the odd vampire, but it gathers strength every step of the way and, in the end, is every bit as good as "The Stress of Her Regard." I'd still advise reading the earlier novel first, however.

"Hide Me" picks up in 1845, 20-some years after the main action of "Stress." By shedding her blood on a small statue containing the essence of her uncle, Christina Rossetti resurrects the vampiric ghost of John Polidori, Lord Byron's former physician. In the coming years, Christina, her brothers and sister and Swinburne become enmeshed in Polidori's gathering power and nefarious plans. So, too, does John Crawford, son of the "Stress" protagonist. In 1862, he learns that his interlude with a then-prostitute, Adelaide McKee, seven years earlier, resulted in the birth of a daughter, Johanna, who now is imperiled by Polidori. Crawford and McKee eventually join forces with the Rossettis in trying to vanquish Polidori and a female vampire who is the companion of Edward Trelawny, a writer and former friend to the long-dead Shelley and Byron. Trelawny, a bridge between the human and Nephilim species, tries in his own way to aid Crawford/McKee and the Rossettis.

Powers, a master of ghosts and secret histories — the "real" explanations behind what happened to historical figures — generally wants nothing to do with either new-school sexy-cozy vampires or, at least on stage, old-school biting of necks. He's more interested in the psychic links between vampires and those they prey upon, and the power exchanges. Here, victims of a vampire's "attentions" benefit through great enhancement of their creative powers. Poets, for example, are inspired to great heights when vampires become their "patrons," but there are costs to their physical well-being (sunlight sensitivity, hastened death) and, particularly, to those they love: vampires are insanely jealous and will eliminate the loved ones of those they've preyed upon. As Powers describes a vampire's effect: "She was more like a sun that ignited a reciprocally fueled solar fire in him, while simply incinerating any lesser planets that presumed to orbit him." Powers may go easy on the biting, but, after a merely good opening third of the novel, he ratchets up the action and weird goings-on into an embarrassment of imaginative riches. Graves, seances, strange creatures, underground passageways, bottles of garlic uncorked to evict vampires, beings descending from the sky, legions of street waifs drawn to the vampire-connected, a twice-dead boy blindly directing hordes of seeking wasps. As is usual for Powers, the details and inventive explanations in his stories are absolutely astonishing. When he builds a world, he goes all out and creates it on his terms. If it's overkill — and some might feel it is or be a little baffled by the details — it's a glorious form of overkill, such as undead ghost vampires would appreciate.

Powers is one of my favorite writers, and I was delighted to find that "Hide Me Among the Graves" is far from a nostalgic revisit to old haunts. I don't think it's his best work, but it's in the ballpark. And that's a wonderful thing from a 60-year-old author who has been writing novels since the mid-'70s. Bravo.
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March 31, 2012 – Shelved
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