Friday, April 15, 2011

Darkness on the Ice

DARKNESS ON THE ICE (1993), by Lois Tilton, takes place in 1944 at a German weather observation station in Greenland. To the surprise and dismay of Dietrich, captain of the squad, an SS officer named Wolff appears with orders to take charge of security for the operation. Wolff has the mission of protecting the German outpost against its American counterpart. After some of Dietrich's own personnel die, he begins to suspect the truth about Wolff.

The supposed SS officer, of course, is a vampire, persuaded to accept the assignment by the prospect of rich hunting and four months of darkness. He struggles to control his thirst for blood in order to avoid exposing his inhuman nature to his companions. Whenever he runs short of Americans to feed on, however, he kills members of the flight crew that brought the weather team to Greenland, men who have been designated as expendable.

The harsh arctic setting is vividly presented, and the author's afterword gives some indication of the scope and depth of her research. Opening and closing segments set in 1995, in which Dietrich reveals the harrowing experiences he'd never expected anyone to believe, frame the wartime story. The 1944 point of view shifts among Dietrich, the Americans, and Wolff himself, each one a believable character. One thing I like about this novel is that the vampire, though evil, has complex thought processes and rational motives. He isn't a mindlessly homicidal monster. Also, the Germans aren't caricatures of villainy, either. Even though Dietrich fights on the wrong side, the reader can't help sympathizing with the captain's plight as he watches the "security officer" kill off members of his command.

Tilton also wrote VAMPIRE WINTER (1990), a post-apocalyptic novel of a vampire taking advantage of the chaos and perpetually shrouded sun of a nuclear winter.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

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