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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 22 January 2010
First of all a warning, this book has tiny print, and especially because of its length a lot of people may have trouble reading this, but this is the penalty that we have to pay for a complete edition at an affordable price. Now universally acknowledged as written by James Malcolm Rymer a very prolific author, who also co-wrote Sweeney Todd or The String of Pearls (Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural), this book is a vampire lovers must have.

I think most people are aware of what penny dreadfuls are, but if you are not here is a shortened reason for their appearance. These were really short pamphlets that contained part of a story and came out at weekly or even monthly intervals, thses were really for the working classes who were more literate and wanted something to entertain them. The penny dreadful and its counterpart in America are really the forerunners of pulp fiction. Like the old Flash Gordon films etc, that my parents used to see Saturday mornings at the cinema, these stories ended with a cliffhanger to keep you hooked so that you would buy the next edition. This book came out in print between 1845-47, and when it was then printed as a novel it was the first vampire novel that we had, until then there had only been short stories and novellas.

Due to the fact that this was originally serialized and wasn't checked before being produced as a novel there are differences in spelling throughout and the story can become confusing in places, especially as the story takes place in the 18th Century, but some of the things mentioned took place in the 19th. Despite these and other flaws this is still highly readable, and more importantly hugely entertaining. Also this book had a massive influence on the classic vampire novel, Dracula (Wordsworth Classics), as you can see if you are familiar with both tales.

Varney is Sir Francis Varney, although he does use other aliases. The man is a rake and loves devouring the blood of young innocent ladies (don't all vampires?), also he has pecuniary urges, after all if you are going to live for ever you need money. The story opens as he is ex-sanguinating the lovely young Flora. Unfortunately with the arrival of Flora's brothers on the scene he has to flee. With the brothers and their friends in tow, including Flora's betrothed, and Jack Pringle amongst others will they finally identify the vampire and locate him? You had to have a working class hero in these books, and Jack Pringle is it. There obviously is a lot more to this story but I don't want to ruin it for those who are unfamiliar with it.

What stands out here though is that Varney is quite modern, it is only relativly recently that vampire films and books have looked at how a vampire can feel cursed and begin to hate their immortality. Life is bad enough at times, so who would really want to live forever? Don't expect high literature here, because you won't find it, this was written for the masses to devour. This was considered at the time to be encouraging degeneracy and immoral, but then so were the pulps of the early 20th Century.

If you like your stories fast-paced with lots of action and entertainment, then read this and forget about the likes of Dan Brown. If you are into vampire tales then this is an essential. Remember this had a great influence on 'Dracula' and is therefore one of the most influential of tales in the genre. Just for your interest here is a piece of trivia, Varney had fangs, the first book in this country produced that had a real fangy vampire. And Varney himself seems to have more of the menace of Max Schreck in 'Nosferatu' than Bela Lugosi in 'Dracula'.
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on 25 July 2011
Coming in at 667,000 words (war and Peace is 'only' 560,000!) this is a huge book. I guess when you are being paid for each installment (Varney was originally released in weekly parts) it's in your own best interests to stretch it out as far as possible. The first 600 or so pages that detail Varney's exploits with the Bannerworth family are excellent but after that it becomes repetitive and episodic and the real threat of mystery and menace Varney inspired earlier in the book is lost.

That said it's still a rollicking good yarn and well worth the commitment that one needs to put in to finish the book.

It is 1200 pages long, the print is tiny but I heartily recommend this to anyone with a taste for horror fiction.
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on 21 January 2010
This has just got to be a bestseller ! Grab your copy of this 1184 page horror epic with more cliffhangers, intrigues and labyrinthine sub plots than you can shake a stake at ! Serialised between 1845 and 1847 this is possibly the greatest of the Victorian so called penny dreadful novels which Wordsworth have generously presented here- complete and uncut. At a period in English literature when Thackeray's' Vanity Fair ' and Mrs. Gaskell's ' Mary Barton' were due to be published this monstrously large and gloriously entertaining epic was coming out in penny numbers with readers from the whole spectrum of Victorian society.
The print of this edition is excellent and not too small and this is the least expensive version available. Normally you have to pay over £20 at least for a copy of this Victorian super gothic - and this new edition has a helpful and interesting introduction contextualising Rymer's novel.

I'm not going to elaborate on the plots as this will spoil your immersion in the book - but suffice it to warn you - prepare yourself for shocks and suprises in equal measure as the author unravels his vast tapestry of supernatural horror.

Grab your copy quickly before the first printing runs out !
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on 26 May 2011
This book is a monster clocking in at over 1100 pages, It also has small print. This took me four months to read, and I found it hard work. It is good in places but bad in others. One plot twist is repeated four times! This is really not good enough. If you want a good vampire book go read Bram Stoker, Anne Rice or Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla. I would only recomend this to a hard core vampire fiction fan as it is an important work and influenced Bram Stoker. But to the casual reader I'd say go find something else. There are far better vampire books out there. One thing in it's favour is the price, it's as cheap as chips. Wordsworth produce some fine often out of print books for a very reasonable amount of money.
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on 19 September 2012
How on Earth do Wordsworth do it? 1166 pages, in very small type, for a mere £2.99?
Well, however they do it they have done it.
"Varney The Vampire" is a huge, sprawling book that is unlikely to be read quickly.
I have been reading it at 3 or 4 pages a day and sometimes it feels like a chore and other times it's a joy to read.
Originally serialised in several hundred parts, the first of which was printed in 1845.
Despite being written over 150 years ago it reads much better than could be expected.
The next time someone challenges you to read War & Peace throw this book back at them. Chances are you'll give them a massive headache.
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on 17 June 2015
A huge triple decker novel, serially composed, the author often seems to change his mind about what kind of book he is writing. For Gothic atmosphere try Volume 3 - the rest is mainly of interest to researchers and people who enjoy reading incredibly badly written books.

The best reason for wading through the whole thing, is probably because you are interested in Bram Stoker. A number of the unresolved 'problems' like 'How are Vampires made?' have already occurred in Varney, and it is fairly obvious that Stoker didn't feel the need to construct a consistent set of Vampire rules because so much was already set in the public imagination. Stoker draws on both Polidori and Varney. Polidori's vampire predates on women and Varney has exclusive interest in female virgin blood as his only possible sustenance. Both can be resuscitated by moonlight, but unlike Dracula, are not in any way limited by tombs, which seem wholly unimportant, nor affected by sunlight. Varney lacks a lot of Dracula's supernatural powers, but he is super strong and can 'travel fast'. Staking and burning are used as methods of disposing of Vampires. We also find two methods of making Vampires: vampires gathering to shine moonlight upon a deceased evil-doer and the destroying Vampire summoning his deceased victim, also by moonlight. The coffins must be opened physically. Rymer does acknowledge Polidori as a source by using that name for a character, but the book isn't known to characters on his novel. From villagers to aristocratic young ladies, these seem to have become hugely well informed through contact with a book on Norwegian Fjords.

Synopsis

After an adequate vampire attack at the beginning of Volume 1, he spends a long time thinking it might be a comedy, with pages and pages of interminable banter between a retired admiral and his cheeky manservant - a nautical version of Dickens' Sam Weller. A great deal of time is spent on riots caused by the mob's fear of Varney, accompanied by rustic dialogue and diatribes against the lower classes. In both volumes 1 and 2, there is much 'taking' of houses, with detail which might interest an audience of Victorian estate agents. There is also a great deal of wedding planning, as three plots, each sillier and shorter than the last, cover Varney's attempts to marry an unsuspicious victim, and being exposed by the same person turning up and denouncing him. There are innumerable sub-plots, not least because the author pads by using 'vignettes': so, while awaiting a crucial interview, Varney reads a light Romance, and its plot is included in our novel. We get a number of these intrusions, including a naval battle and a fairy story, and yes, Dickens did do this, but much much better. We have diatribes against mothers, clergy and Scotchmen. Then finally in Volume 3, the Feast of Blood begins. There is a sequence of recognizable Vampire incidents, in which Varney emerges as a genuine character, a cultured human being, damned, despairing, he wavers between embracing evil and self-loathing, and eventually resolves the problem of his existence.
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on 30 October 2012
Recently attended a conference on gothic literature, and one of the speakers was suggesting that a number of authors had been involved in the authorship of Varney.this sparked my interest so purchased the book. Rymer may well have started the story / episodes off and even finished them but there does seem to be an inconsistency in the narrative style.
A very long book but very useful if you are interested in the vampires progression and development through victorian fiction and beyond.
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on 7 January 2016
A bit drawn out and boring
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