cover image Children of the Night

Children of the Night

Dan Simmons. Putnam Publishing Group, $21.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13717-4

Count Dracula kicks off the coffin lid again in this updated vampire tale, ready to stalk through the rubble of post-Communist Europe. This time, however, the count's sanguinary tippling habits may hold the cure for both AIDS and cancer. The key lies with a Romanian orphan adopted by American hematologist Kate Neuman; the infant, Joshua, has a series of rare diseases, and can survive only because his body extracts and processes genetic material from blood transfusions. If the virus in his system responsible for this ability can be isolated, his diseases could be remedied and medical marvels would be within Kate's grasp. The drawback is that Joshua has inherited his talents from the decrepit but murderous Vlad Dracula, and this patriarch of an accursed clan of blood-drinkers is more interested in perpetuating his power than in providing miracle cures for the masses. Simmons ( Song of Kali ) makes Children 's fantastical scientific claims easy to swallow, although the medical jargon in some of the American scenes is thicker than Bela Lugosi's accent (try out ``hypogammaglobulinemia''). Still, the book offers a mesmerizing tour through the ghostly, gray tatters of Romania. ( July)