RogerBW's Blog

Sabella, Tanith Lee 27 August 2019

1980 fantasy with SF elements. On the colony world of Nova Mars, the blood-drinking Sabella lives on her own… but her aunt has just died, and seems in her will to be set on outing her as a vampire.

One has to admit there's not a lot of SF here. Most of the story would have worked in the American South, with minor tweaks; the real plot-affecting science-fictional components only come in right at the end, where to my mind things take a sharp turn for the better. At least there's now a reason why Sabella hasn't met any other vampires.

But before then we have a fair old chunk of mopey vampire, woe is me, I don't want to kill them, it's not my fault they get addicted to me, religion is the enemy, all men are rapists – with a sideline suggesting that in spite of that last the right man is the one who doesn't pay any attention to Sabella's wishes but treats her like dirt and runs her life as he sees fit. Which seems a bit of a contradiction.

It's not badly written – indeed, the style is more blank-verse than conventional prose – but it does rather drag, perhaps rather more for me than it would have for a contemporary reader. (But I enjoyed Shambleau.) The atmosphere is good, but the good ideas are spread thinly through it and mining for them is sometimes hard work.

This might have worked better for a different reader. After all, once upon a time I read and enjoyed Anne Rice, and this is a lot better than that.

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  1. Posted by David L. Pulver at 09:24am on 27 August 2019

    I agree with you on Sabella. I found it interesting, but not one of Tanith Lee's best novels, or even her best vampire stories (of which she has quite a number, though Red as Blood (in her anthology of the same name) is probably my favorite). These days I mostly remember it fondly as the first book I ever took out of the Judith Merril collection at University of Toronto...

    By odd coincidence, I was just reading Leigh Bracket's short story Mars Minus Bisha (in Coming of the Terrans), which has a mutant psychic vampire girl on Mars... With Tanith Lee, Leigh Bracket, and CL Moore, all we need is another one and we've got a theme anthology "Vampires of Mars" (:

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