When it comes to full length novels, I have something of a confession to make. As much as I love reading, nine novels out of ten I will fail to finish. Sometimes its because they’re dull, sometimes its because I simply can’t be bothered reading for a few days and then forget to go back to it. So it goes without saying that for me to finish a novel it has to be something pretty special, something that manages to keep my attention throughout, and actually makes me want to go on reading it. Operation Vampyr is certainly managed to do all three of those things and much more

The first in a trilogy of novels by David Bishop, Operation Vampyr begins the story of the Rumanian Vampyr soldiers as previously seen in the legendary 1980s strip Fiends of the Eastern Front (it isn’t neccesary to have read the original strip to be able to read the books however). Like the original strip, Operation Vampyr tells the tale from the perspective of the Germans, as they begin to uncover the truth about their Rumanian allies. Fortunatly these aren’t crazed deranged Nazis we’re talking about, these soldiers are just ordinary men fighting for their country. The main protaginists are the three Vollmer brothers, one an infantryman, one a tank commander, and one a pilot. The three characters are introduced individually with their stories gradually coming together roughly two thirds of the way through the novel. Each of the characters has their own encounter with the Rumanian Vampyr’s, which recall memories of the original comic strip.

The story itself rattles along at breakneck pace, never allowing the reader to grow bored. Bishop’s writing manages to effectively convey the horrors of war even when the Vampyrs aren’t present. Indeed, I could probably have quite happily read this even if the supernatural element hadn’t been present, and it had instead been a straight forward war story. The supernatural elements are however what make the novel go from being merely good to being genuinly great. The leader of the Vampyr’s (as in the comic strip) is Lord Constanta, who is every bit the classic Vampyr. Suave and sophisticated when trying to appear normal, Constanta becomes a genuinly nasty villain as soon as what he truly is is revealed, and like all good villains gets some very memorable speechs. As well as the horrors of war, we also get to see the horrors inflicted by the Vampyr’s. Some of the scenes in the novel are particularly nasty, perhaps most notably being the Russian POW camp, where the prisoners are slowly drained of blood untill they die. Its not just the bad guys who get the nasty scenes however, as the heroes of the novel viciously torture one of the Vampyrs in a particularly gruesome few pages.

As the first book in a trilogy, Operation Vampyr is an absolute belter. With a story which never lets up in its relentless pace, and characters whom the reader is made to genuinly care about, Operation Vampyr is far more than the mere pulp fiction you may imagine it to be at first glance. Exciting, dramatic, and with a final page which nicely sets up the rest of the trilogy, Operation Vampyr comes highly recommended. Considering how cheaply a second hand copy can now be found online, there’s really no reason not to give this a try. I can’t wait to read the next one.

9/10

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