This blog series starts here: https://pseudopod.org/2018/10/25/the-clan-novel-saga-a-revisitation/
Clan Novel: Nosferatu covers events that happen between June 1 and November 30, 1999. It is Book 13 in the original clan novel saga, and was published in September 2000. It was written by Gherbod Fleming, who provided five of the thirteen novels in the set. Our primary POV character is Calebros, who is the center of the web of information – SchreckNet – located in the tunnels beneath New York City.
While released last, this novel begins chronologically before the rest, because the Nossies show us the signs leading up to all the mess. It was cool to see some of the memos reappear here that were first presented as hints in earlier novels. Unfortunately, there’s also number of revelations that were hidden from the reader, not from the characters.
Since this is the last in the series, it can be a little more playful with the timeline to ensure tension is maintained. Regularly throughout the book, we get a flash-forward to the run-up to the final battle in New York City. Additionally, each of these flash-forwards highlights a new piece of information, which is then fleshed out as we return to the regular timeline.
This book brings the major plot and the 1.5 sub-plots to a conclusion. It makes sense that the info-dudes are the ones that show us the big picture, and their story starts before and ends after everyone else. It was also good to see them become active participants, as their typical watcher status would have led to a painfully passive conclusion.
I find myself too involved in events to observe objectively. So many questions—seemingly unconnected. But the task is not to find if the pieces fit the puzzle, but where they fit it. Seeing only the tip of the proverbial iceberg atop the water, we must somehow map the underlying, unseen dangers. Who (or what) has lost and gained from the results of the results of this past year’s extraordinary events? The Camarilla lost much in the way of territory, but the Sabbat has (practically) lost New York and find itself as fractious as ever, or more so. We Nosferatu have gained our revenge for Petrodon’s murder, yet I have more questions about what led to the foul deed. The answers may have gone to the grave with Nickolai. Or does Victoria Ash know? And what insanity prompted her to reject her greatest achievement? Her Leopold is gone. The Eye, too, is out of sight. May Hesha use it wisely. But the question remains: What is the thread that binds these questions together? What is the cause of so many intrigues—the Eye, Petrodon, Nickolai, the war—resolving at the same time and upon the same stage? I can sense it, but not perceive it. Perhaps the answers are in the addled messages of the Prophet. For instance: “An angel must enter the hell of the dragon’s belly before this age passes, lest all ages come to pass.” If so, I fear I lack the insight to decipher them. He left his coded words and his bloody scrawl upon the Cave of Lamentations. I shall seek what it was he found, and pray that I have time enough.
So, the war ends in a fashion which makes a large number of changes, but is akin to the shuffling of the deck. The Camarilla has lost a number of cities down the coast to the Sabbat, but has taken New York City. The Sabbat won a much larger territory, but has lost a significant number of powerful leaders, so retaining that territory may prove difficult. The Eye of Hazimel was unlidded from its sarcophagus, wreaked havoc, and has been returned to slumber.
The half sub-plot that wove throughout the books related to the murder of Petrodon, a Nosferatu Justicar. Around page 200, we get three or four paragraphs that sum up what dozens of interstitial scenes through the saga failed to hint at. Nickolai, the Tremere traitor of the House of Goratrix, escaped some sort of purge of that bloodline. Petrodon was investigating and getting closer to uncovering that Nickolai was not actually dead. So Nickolai arranged through the Giovanni (particularly Katana Chagall) to get Petrodon to sit for a sculptor—a lure to remove his defenses so that he can be murdered. Nickolai then embraces the artist, rewrites his memories, and sends him off to be a Toreador in Atlanta: Leopold. Katana Chagall runs away to hide in Boston, so that he cannot be killed for his complicity in the murder of Petrodon. This is why he is kidnapped during the first book, then shuffled around and questioned.
When playing out a mystery across thirteen books, hidden below two larger driving plots, each appearance of that mystery needs to be purposeful and contain clues for the reader. There should probably have been a single writer for the parts of this sub-plot, and they should have been strategically deployed in relevant places in the other books. Readers need to feel involved in a mystery. Because this secondary sub-plot was fumbled so badly across thirteen books, it pulls the reader out of the story and leads them into considering editorial and writing decisions, as well as whether some of those details were made up after the series was already underway.
For example, what was Nickolai doing? If he was trying to clean up loose ends and hide from the Nosferatu revenge, why didn’t he kill Katana Chagall and Leopold years before this saga? He never came across as either a patient strategist or fearful with a sense of urgency. He also didn’t seem to be doing much of anything but lounging about his house. Why didn’t Nickolai just kill the human sculptor after killing Petrodon? There’s no evidence of affection between Nickolai and Leopold at any point in their timeline. Why didn’t Nickolai interact with Leopold (on screen) until the final book? We received several POV chapters with him, but without any significant link. I wondered how Leopold recovered from torpor, left the Cave of Lamentations, and arrived in New York City between the Setite book and the Ravnos one. Nickolai’s intervention was hidden from the readers. The same with Leopold’s teleportation from New York to Las Vegas to kill Katana Chagall. Revelation of this should have brought satisfaction, not annoyance.
Some might be unsatisfied by the appearance of a couple of hooks that are not paid off in this saga: the children in the well and the harbinger of skulls. There is far too much consternation about the children in the well in the Tremere book, but I jettisoned most thoughts about that book right after finishing my writeup, as it had an insignificant impact on the two major plots. Without that book muddying things, there are a couple tentacular scenes near the end of this book that are entertaining sequel-bait. The harbinger of skulls plot-hook is contained entirely within the Giovanni book, and deserves the same treatment of jettisoning. So long as you ignore everything involving Nickolai, this book is a satisfying conclusion to the two major plots of the Clan Novel Saga. Sure, you’d miss his grisly death scene, but that’s a sacrifice I’d make to avoid the alternative.
The initial post: The Clan Novel Saga: A Revisitation
The next post: Anthology