Volume 2, Number 1, Winter, 1984

The Keep

By F. Paul Wilson

Berkley paperback 1981. 406 pages, $3.50.
Reviewed by Neal Wilgus
January, 1984

Nazis in Transylvania? At first this sounds like a bizarre joke, but F. Paul Wilson is serious, and he's written a fascinating novel to prove it.

The story begins when Sturmbannfuhrer Eric Kaempffer, a ruthless SS officer, is sent to Dinu Pass in Romania in 1941 to find out why something is killing German troops quartered in a strange fortress-like structure which the locals call the Keep. The man in charge of the troops, Captain Klaus Woermann, is an old adversary and a stubborn officer who has refused to join the Nazi Party.

When their initial attempt to understand the Presence in the Keep fails, Kaempffer and Woermann turn for help, ironically, to two lonely Jews from Bucharest —Theodor Cuza, a retired history professor who is slowly dying in his wheelchair, and Magda, his middle-aged daughter, whose only purpose is to keep her father alive. Meanwhile, a strange red-haired man whom we eventually come to know as Glaeken makes his way from Portugal to bring his own answers to Dinu Pass. Before long, Professor Cuza makes contact with the vampire-like creature of the Keep, Molasar, who claims to have been a supporter of Vlad Dracula five centuries earlier.

With these six characters and the spooky setting Wilson spins an engrossing yarn that is well-paced and well thought out. The suspense builds as we learn more about Glaeken and Molasar and the story ends with a final supernatural showdown between the two. For some reason Wilson has made The Keep part of the Cthulhu Mythos horror tradition, acknowledging a debt to H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith and including some references to Mythos "blasphemous" books such as Al Azif, De Vermis Mysteriis, and Unaussprechlichen Kulten—even though the Mythos trappings are really superfluous to the story. Secondly, The Keep has been made into a recent movie which I have not seen at this writing but which has received mixed reviews.

Finally, is it libertarian? It might be argued that any Wilson title will be automatically libertarian, but in The Keep the message is only implied, never openly stated. Woermann's refusal to join the Party, Cuza's struggle to outwit his German tormentors and Glaeken's battle to keep Molasar from world domination are all surely libertarian in spirit, but most readers will see only a gripping horror story and never know they're in the hands of a writer who would free them from the State.

Which is as it should be. The Keep is a fine piece of entertainment and after my rather negative remarks about Wilson's earlier, more explicitly libertarian novels, it's a pleasure to give this one high marks indeed.

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