Colin Wilson’s 1976 novel The Space Vampires is a bizarre oddity that defies easy categorisation into any particular genre.
At first it seems like science fiction, but it soon shows signs of becoming a horror novel, and them it starts to movie into the areas that have always fascinated WIlson - the world of the occult, and of violent psycho-sexual crime.
In the late 21st century an enormous space craft is located, a spacecraft so big that it is difficult to understand how it could possibly have found its way into Earth’s solar system without being detected earlier.
Commander Olof Carlsen and the crew of the Earth spaceship Hermes investigate. The interior of the alien craft is strange and disturbing, but even more unsettling is the discovery of a large number of apparently dead humanoid creatures. They look very human indeed. Carlsen is instructed to bring three of the corpses back to Earth. But these creatures are not dead after all. And they’re vampires. Not blood-sucking vampires, but energy vampires. They drain the life-force from other creatures.
Carlsen makes contact with a number of researchers on the fringe of respectable science, researchers with an interest in vampirism. He learns that vampirism of a sort is common in the animal world, and among humans. But these space vampires are much more dangerous than any Earth-bound vampires, and are able to shift from one body to another.
The book attempts to explain vampirism as a natural rather than supernatural phenomenon, something that can be investigated scientifically. But Colin Wilson’s idea of science isn’t exactly conventional. It’s the sort of science that Mulder from The X-Files would dismiss as being way too flakey. It’s occultism with a scientific veneer.
Wilson also uses vampirism as a kind of explanation for violent psycho-sexual crime, perhaps not surprising given that one of his early bestsellers (Ritual in the Dark) was a novel based on Jack the Ripper and given his keen interest in the occult.
The result is an odd blend of interesting ideas that never quite comes together in a wholly convincing way. But it’s strange enough to be worth a look if you have a taste for the offbeat.
The energy vampire idea has subsequently been dealt with in quite a few novel, notably in Simmons’ unbelievably tedious Carrion Comfort. While The Space Vampires is not exactly a conventionally well-written novel it’s a literary masterpiece in comparison with Simmons’ effort.