book: Fiends of the Eastern Front | David Bishop
Fiends of the Eastern Front
, 2007 - 768 pages
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A pretty decent read
If you liked Sven Hassel books and enjoyed movies like The Keep then you will like this trilogy of WW2 Russian
stories filled with Vampires.
Its a novel-form of the 2000AD story by the same name. The basic plot was taken and filled out greatly. Its no afternoon read, the book runs through 3 stories, from 1941 to the end in Berlin.......and then.....
Certainly a trip down memory lane for anyone who liked the original comic story and reminiscent of books like Legion of the Damned and Wheels of Terror.
War is hell, filled with demons
This is going to be a long review, three books to review. Now, war and horror mixes are rare in horror prose, and Black Flame aims to remedy this with this omnibus of these three really weird war novels.
In "Operation Vampire" we are introduced to the Vollmer brothers, each one of them representing three arms of the German military. Youngest and most idealistic, ex-Hitlerjurgen Hans is a foot soldier in the Wehrmacht, Ralf, the oldest, is a cynical Panzer commander; while Luftwaffe Staffelführer Stuka pilot Klaus is the middle brother, in both attitude and birth, with each brother having his own story and set of supporting characters.
"Operation Vampire" starts in late June of 1941, and soon the war for these three brothers starts going south as Romanian officers, led by Hauptmann (Captain) Constanta, arrive to help on the Russian
Ralf's story is potentially the most interesting as he not only has Constanta to deal with, but Constanta's underling Gorgo, who is assigned to Ralf's Panzer to learn about tank warfare.
The nature of the Romanians is obvious, as they only fight at night, and enemy bodies constantly turn up drained of blood. Wisely, Bishop doesn't dwell on the clichéd Romanians, who fear religion, daylight, and holy water, are killed by silver and stakes, are evil and arrogant, and turn instantly to dust when they die. Oh yeah, and they want to take over the world. Bishop instead dwells more on the politics and reactions of the German soldiers that have to alongside the Romanian dead-and then against them, as it soon becomes obvious that the Romanians are more of a threat than the Russians.
Gradually the brothers plan a revolt against their Romanian "allies," gathering supporters from fellow soldiers and pilots, and silver from the pillaged countryside.
While not skimping on the action, Bishop wisely builds the suspense gradually until "Operation Vampire" climaxes with an, almost too, rousing firefight involving all three armed services and the Romanians.
"The Blood Red Army" is told from the Russian viewpoint in 1942, and introduces a new cast, this time starting with Danilov Zunetov; a young commissar who brashly makes a mistake and ends up in the "shtrafroty", a Russian penal colony. Here he meets a varied and interesting bunch of prisoners who already know about Constanta. Soon after Zunetov's arrival, Sophia arrives, and everything starts going to hell. Constanta starts whittling down the shtrafroty. Including a battle with the swarming undead that Constanta has risen from their graves. Eisenstein, a Russian Jew, who is Zunetov's mentor, is bitten and starts to change, and can only hold the changes off by the direct application of a Star of David implanted directly onto the bite marks. By the three-quarter mark, the survivors have been transferred to one of Russia's "smert krofeet" vampire assassin teams, and the Germans have lost the Siege of Leningrad.
Like before, Bishop takes his time to develop his characters. Like Hans Vollmer, who makes an off-stage appearance, Bishop shows us Zunetov as an idealistic newbie, then gradually deconstructs the character and strips Zunetov of his idealism, and corrupts him with a gradual, and growing, cynicism. This novel revolves around Zunetov, as we see the hell that is war, and Eisenstein, who symbolizes both the good and the evil of war as the vampirism is corrupting him, as he struggles to hold on to his humanity.
"Twilight of the Dead" brings the survivors of the two previous novels together in 1945, in two distinct storylines that Bishop gradually braids together into one cohesive whole. The Germans are losing, and the Romanians have casually switched sides and are now fighting with the Russians.
Gorgo is back, and he is on a mission. He is looking for the German plans for the Atomic bomb, and to help him, he picks a number of people from several, now disbanded, smert krofeet outfits. Gorgo forms his own "gloobokee-nosh", or deep knife (deep penetration) raider team which has Zunetov, Eisenstein, who has become even more unstable, Mariya, a survivor of a smert krofeet slaughtered by Gorgo, and a pair of Mongolian twins.
Meanwhile Hans and his company are ambushed, and almost totally massacred after failing to kill Constanta in his castle. Zunetov helps the few survivors escape, and Hans and company fight their way back to Berlin, spend a brief time with the now crushed Hitler just before his suicide, not realizing that there is a traitor in their midst.
Finally, as Berlin crumbles and the Russians and vampires run amok, the survivors decide to that their only chance is to take the fight back to Constanta.
The ending is a little over the top, but, it's a solid wrap-up. Although the vampires are as flat as pancakes, Bishop concentrates on the soldier's characterizations, on the grunge and the grit of WWII, and the war and the vampire's effects on its participants. These novels are quickly paced, action packed, weird war pulp, stuffed with historical details, showing that Bishop has done his homework. While "The Blood Red Army" is definitely the best of the three, all three would make great movies, or one long mini-series.
It's hard to believe all this came from one forty-page comic story, and led to a sequel dealing with the Japanesse front. Thisreview originally appeared in a slightly shorter form in Cemetery Dance #59, and was edited by Bob. Thanx Bob.
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