Tim Powers's Hide Me Among the Graves: secret history of the vampires that stalked the pre-Raphaelites

By Cory Doctorow

Tim Powers's latest novel is Hide Me Among the Graves, and it is a fine example of the work of a much-beloved author, and a spooky ride through Victorian London to boot. In Hide Me, Powers retells the lives of pre-Raphaelite sculptor Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his siblings, notably the poet Christina Rossetti. Powers is justly famed for his secret histories, fictionalized accounts of real historical persons that turn the coincidences of their lives into deep mysteries to be plumbed for stories. Here is a near-perfect example of how well this trick works, especially for Tim Powers, whose special gift is to be able to write about superstition and the supernatural in a way that literally raises the hairs on my neck and puts gooseflesh on my arms, though I am as staunch an atheist materialist as you will ever meet.

Here, the spookiness revolves around two ancient vampires -- one of them having started her life as Bodicea -- who haunt London, and whose bite and blood grant poets and painters access to surpassing beauty and art. These two beasts are working to destroy London, to call down an earthquake that will kill everyone in the city, and their plan requires the blood and cooperation of the Rossettis, who are -- at times, and always motivated by access to the numinous -- willing accomplices to this plan. As a variety of personages fictional and real chase each other through the superstition-steeped cobbles of London, and through the ancient and haunted cloacae that run beneath the streets, we're exposed to a dreadful and terrifying Victorian world.

Powers's treatment of superstition works so well, I think, because he deals with it without apology. There's never a sense that superstition is just a kind of alternate physics, with its own rules that are different from the ones we're accustomed to. The supernatural world of Tim Powers has an internal logic, but it's the logic of dreams and the id, not the logic of the scientific method. Powers's work engages with something prerational that is buried deep, deep in our brains, and that won't be bullied into submission by mere reason.

If you'd like to know more about Powers's work, have a look at our other mentions of his work.

Hide Me Among the Graves

Published 6:07 am Mon, Apr 16, 2012

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About the Author

I write books. My latest are: a YA graphic novel called In Real Life (with Jen Wang); a nonfiction book about the arts and the Internet called Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer) and a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

9 Responses to “Tim Powers's Hide Me Among the Graves: secret history of the vampires that stalked the pre-Raphaelites”

  1. Mike Butler says:

    What I don’t understand is why the kindle version is $6 more than the hard cover. No sale here.

  2. jackrabbitslim says:

    So, this looks like a sequel to The Stress of Her Regard. Which was great. Byron’s life is such excellent fodder for stories. Stranger than fiction, right? 
    Also, +1 for Tim Powers. Declare changed my life. 

  3. Yep, this is a sequel to The Stress of Her Regard, which is prettymuch the same plot only set amongst the Romantics. It’s not necessary to read The Stress of Her Regard to understand what’s going on in Hide Me Among the Graves, but you’ll appreciate a lot of the detail in Graves MUCH more if you’ve read the previous volume. As a rabid Stress of her Regard fan, I was literally slavering to get a hold of this one!

  4. kent williams says:

    What always struck me about Powers’ books is the way his protagonists react to the outlandishly fantastic challenges that confront them.  They always seem to be on the verge of heaving a weary sigh, rolling their eyes, and saying “Oh crap! Another ghost-snorting semi-immortal witch is trying to ruin my day! What next?”

  5. jgs says:

    You had me at “Tim Powers’s latest novel”.

  6. daddytodd says:

    In addition to being a sequel to “Stress,” it’s also related to Tim’s short novel “A Time to Cast Away Stones” that can be found in the collection “the Bible Repairman and Other Stories.”

  7. Interesting. Aiden Turner, who played a vampire on the UK “Being Human,” also played Dante Gabriel Rossetti on the BBC’s “Desperate Romantics.” Coincidence? 

  8. Chuk says:

    I didn’t actually like The Stress of Her Regard as much as most Powers. This new one was better (and it seems like a pretty distant sequel to me).

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