Book Cover
Title The Vampire Tapestry
Series ---
Author Suzy McKee Charnas
Cover Art ---
Publisher Scholastic Inc. - 1993
First Printing Andreas Rentsch
Category Science Fiction
Warnings Blood, sex

Main Characters

Dr. Edward Weyland, Katje de Groot, Mark, Roger, Reese, Floria Landauer, Jean Grey, Irv, Allison

Main Elements Vampires

Decades after its initial publication, The Vampire Tapestry remains one of the most important, provocative, and beloved books in the genre, a considerable evolution from your average vampire novel. And Dr. Edward Weyland is nothing like your average vampire: not only is he a respected anthropology professor, but his bloodlust stems from a biological - rather than supernatural - source. The only member of a species of one, he has learned to form an uneasy empathy with his prey in order to survive, secretly thieving blood from his victims rather than murdering them outright. But even age-honed discretion can fail in the face of desperation.

Dr. Weyland is unlike any "monster" you've ever encountered, and his Tapestry is unlike any story you've ever read. You will never think of vampires the same way again.

I wasn't sure I was going to like this. At the time it came out in the 80's it was considered a very different take on the vampire theme with Weyland being a naturally born creature, not a supernatural one, and since then that has been done many times. But it turns out that aspect is completely irrelevant. What I enjoyed was the way it was written, and of course the unusual character of Weyland itself.

First, it is really a collection of short stories that link together. In each story we get the see the vampire Weyland, but through the eyes of different characters. In the first it is the widowed wife of a university teacher that continues to work on campus. Having grown up in Africa hunting the wildlife there, she recognizes a predator when she sees one. In the next, it is a young boy named Mark and his uncle Roger who have Weyland prisoner, and the boy sees not the predator, but the caged animal. In the third, the Nebula-award winning "Unicorn Tapestry", Weyland has several sessions with a psychiatrist. After his experience of starting to like Mark, this pushes him even further to find what humanity is left in him, and this throws him completely off-balance, for the only way he can survive, as the only member of his species, unable to make more of his own kind, is to not sympathize with his prey. To not feel for them. To not befriend them. He doesn't kill them simply to avoid attracting attention, their lives after all are meaningless to least until he began to get to know a few of them. I'll leave the last two stories as a surprise for you.

Weyland was a fascinating character in that he is not human, never was human, and that humans are his prey. He is not a good guy, even though he is the focus of this novel. Even when we are inside his head he still views most humans as food, though as I mentioned that begins to change. He is alone in the world and every time he goes to ground he rises again with no memories of his past, he has to adapt anew to the world that has changed around him. To find a new purpose in life, to find a way to fit in amongst humans so he can hunt them with the needle like dagger beneath his tongue. He is immortal, and hard to kill, but no stakes or crosses need apply.

I could see why the "Unicorn Tapestry" chapter was award winning, allowing us to see inside the monster's mind, to understand the way he thinks, what he feels when he hunts, when he feeds, eventually convincing the psychiatrist that he's not insane, but in fact, a real vampire. But at the same time as she digs deeper she forces him to face some aspects of himself that he had ignored, and which, ultimately, in a sense, destroys him.

It was at times frightening, and at others suspensful, sometimes sad, and always engrossing. I enjoyed this far more than I could have imagined I would, and if you are a vampire fan, you must ensure you add this classic to your list. Nearly 35 years have passed since it was published and I can't claim I've read anything else quite like it.

This vampire definitely doesn't sparkle.

Posted: October 2016


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