The Voivode: by Philip Challinor

There is cosmic horror; and then there is cosmic holocaust.The former is the sensibility of human frailty in an unknowable universe; the latter is the insanity that ensues from it.

In Philip Challinor's extraordinary novella, The Voivode, vampirism is in league with the pre-Galilean universe, and its enemy, the Church, is mired in the dark ages. The spacecraft Persephone, lifted into the void by the burning of ten thousand or so heretics, attempts to venture beyond Earth's furthest satellite, Sol. Instead it finds evidence of the Gililean universe in the form of a new planet that appears to orbit Sol; and it finds itself under siege from within, as a stowaway vampire lays waste to the crew with the help of the ship's doctor. Sangruel the vampire and the doctor change the Persephone's course to land on this new planet and claim it... but it claims them in the most curious and horrifying manner.

At the heart of The Voivode is a bloody transfusion; that is, a protectionist exchange of knowledge and of power. Earth's enlightenment is to be more of the same, on an industrial scale, as Challinor reveals the newly discovered planet to have been asset-stripped of its only resource, blood, which is, after all, the currency of vampires. Blood cells converted to coin.

The Voivode, like most of Challinor's work, is precisely rendered. There are touches of Ligotti and Lucius Shephard (The Golden comes to mind); in fact, the prose is better than the former and the conceit fully matches the latter. It is a major work of strange and vivid imagination, and in subjecting cosmic horror to economic rationalism, Challinor has found a wholly unique voice.

You can buy a copy of The Voivode here - I absolutely recommend that you do.


  1. Thank you very much for this. Quite aside from the near-blasphemous flattery of comparing me with Shepard and Ligotti (a blasphemy for which I am sure there are dispensations), that "economic" reading of the story had never occurred to me.

    You might be interested in this: a small press is reprinting Archie Roy's Devil in the Darkness.

  2. I do seem to have a habit of missing the main point; but sometimes it leads me to other maybe stranger places inside a book, and sometimes not. When I sat down to look at The Voivode, this review presented almost intact. I did forget to add that I loved the cover design.

    Thanks for the link. I see Hamilton's Beam of Malice there too, which wasn't really to my taste, but it's good to see it in print again. Same with the Roy, though Devil in the Darkness is the only 1st edition I have by him, but I'll definitely pick up a reprint of The Curtained Sleep.