Let me go on record by saying that when I think about stories involving the sinking of the Titanic, vampires and a good dose of horror don’t usually come to mind. I mean, seriously… the survivors of Titanic have just watched over a thousand of their fellow passengers perish in the cold Atlantic waters. Who would pull them out of the lifeboats onto the deck of the Carpathia and then have them have to deal with blood-thirsty vampires? Who would craft a horror story of Old World vampires taking advantage of hapless humans still in shock and suffering from hypothermia, thirst and hunger, and loss of loved ones? Who could even conceive of mixing the tragedy of the Titanic with the terror of the undead?
I’ll tell you the name of the author that could write this kind of tale. His name is Matt Forbeck. And, Lord have mercy, he’s one of us. A geek dad. And not just any geek dad. He’s a GeekDad contributor!
I’m a big fan of alternative fiction, so when I heard that Matt had a new book coming out that mixed the Titanic tragedy with a tale of vampires, I knew I had to give it a read. While I’m more of a science fiction reader, I still can dabble in other genres, and horror is one of those that I occasionally like to get into for a short period of time. So, I asked Angry Robot, Matt’s publisher, for a review copy of Carpathia and got down to reading.
One of the first things you’ll want to know about this book is that it’s not about the Titanic. The impact with the iceberg (I don’t think I’m spoiling anything here) takes place on page 1, so the ship goes down early in the book. Carpathia is about the survivors who reach the Carpathia, the first ship to reach the survivors on that fateful night. Interestingly enough, Matt’s done his homework as some of the dialogue of the Carpathia captain and crew and the preparations they were making as they steamed towards the Titanic’s last known position are taken directly from historical notes and interviews of the events. I liked that. Getting readers to really appreciate the heaviness of that night on the Carpathia crew is something you don’t see in movies or read about in most books (fiction or non-fiction) about Titanic. So it’s nice that Matt chose to give the Carpathia crew, including the ship’s doctor, more depth.
The vampires, by the way, aren’t hiding away. No, they’re going straight for the survivors while they’re on the lifeboats. The Carpathia is still a ways away, but vampires being vampires (and it being nighttime), they don’t feel the cold of the ocean. It’s hunting season, and it’s not the sharks that are circling the boats. A few renegade vampires have decided to have dinner and left the Carpathia against the vampire leader’s wishes. This group of vampires is leaving the USA for Europe because their actions stateside were bringing unwanted attention to them. And now, with a few having an unsanctioned feeding on the high seas, the group is once again at risk of being discovered.
It took me a handful of chapters into the book to realize that a number of the survivors heading to Carpathia had familiar sounding names. I hadn’t read Bram Stoker’s Dracula in a long time, but a quick Google search verified my hunches — the characters in Matt’s book are loosely based on characters in the Stoker’s novel. Once safely on board the Carpathia and having witnessed a few strange occurrences, they quickly realize that the stories their parents told them as children weren’t fiction, but were instead based on real experiences that their relatives had with the most famous of vampires. If you’ve read Dracula, then the names of Harker, Seward, and Holmwood might be familiar. Matt plays around with first names, however, so you’ll also find Lucy, Abe, and Quin (Quincey).
And when it comes to vampires, Matt has made the (wise) choice of sticking with Old School vampires. They’re vicious, and they’re shape changers. They sleep during the day in coffins, burn in the sunlight, and can easily turn into bats or a mist. He’s stuck with the original Dracula mythology and it plays well with the 1912 timeline and the dread provided by the close-quarters of a ship with nowhere to escape but the sea.
Matt doesn’t spare the gore — blood isn’t running from every page, but the violence and terror experienced from his band of on-the-run vampires definitely makes this a book for the non-squeamish. These aren’t glittery, feel-good vampires. They’re killers, and once their presence is discovered, they’ll go to any lengths to keep their secret, including killing every passenger and crew member to prevent the ship from turning around and heading back to New York City.
Matt’s written a dark yet entertaining tale about a group of individuals with the worst of luck. The sinking of the Titanic is a tragedy, yes, but what the survivors encounter after they believe they’re safe and sound on the Carpathia is much worse.
Yes, Matt Forbeck went there. He took those poor souls that survived the Titanic’s sinking and decided to make their lives a little more terrifying. He mixed history with horror, and probably did it with a sly grin on his face as he typed up Carpathia.
Very dark. Seriously twisted.
I enjoyed every bit of it.