In 1941, a group of German soldiers occupy an abandoned Romanian keep. But an attempt to unearth the fortress’s rumored “hidden treasure” instead loosens a dark force that dwells within its walls. When the men under his command begin to meet with mysterious and grisly ends, Captain Woermann sends a dispatch back to Germany requesting assistance. To Woermann’s dismay, it comes in the form of the opportunistic Major Kaempffer and his squad of Nazi storm troopers. As the two men clash and more of their fellows are claimed by the evil stalking the keep, a solution seems to present itself in the form of a sickly Jewish scholar, his doting daughter, and an enigmatic stranger who seems to know far more than he is willing to reveal…
Truth be told, this isn’t my first time reading The Keep. I actually read it in the mid-80’s and I remember enjoying it immensely – although I can recall few story details from that first read. I still have my original copy and, it was while transferring it over to my office library that fellow producer Robert C. Cooper glimpsed it and remarked: “The Keep! This was a really good book!” Like I said, I enjoyed it immensely twenty years ago, but I wondered: Would it still hold up? Well, there was one way to find out – by making it a Book of the Month Club nominee.
I sincerely hope that those of you who voted for The Keep actually got around to reading it for a couple of reasons. 1. Author F. Paul Wilson will be swinging by to do a guest blog for us later this week and I’m sure he’d love to hear your thoughts. 2. It’s a great book.
Yes, twenty years later and it’s still as chilling as I remember it. Wilson does a masterful job of grabbing the reader early on and simply never letting go – or, moreover, never giving them a chance to get away. The story is gripping; the narrative incredibly well-paced. As the mystery of the keep unfolds, the author leads us through a veritable dark labyrinth of cryptic clues, startling turns, and disturbing dead ends. Seemingly straightforward at first, the novel quickly develops a surprising complexity in its focus on the strategic maneuvering between the noble Woermann and the merciless Kaempffer, Dr. Cuza’s crisis of faith, and a malevolent force that ultimately transcends the established notion of evil.
I am, to my detriment, one of those readers/viewers who will always see the twist coming, always figure things out ahead of time and then spend the rest of the book/movie impatiently awaiting the predicted reveal. Well, when it came to this book, I was admittedly in the dark, baffled as to why Molasar would only react to the sight of Cuza’s silver cross, then shocked when Woermann’s attempts to ward him off in a similar manner proved fruitless. Like Cuza, I was taken in by Molasar’s ruse, his rescue of Magda and his apparent nationalist pride. I had the rug pulled out from underneath me a couple of times over the course of this book – and I loved it.
Interestingly enough, I found the book’s flawed victims, Woermann and Cuza, more engaging than its heroes, Glenn and Magda. I’ve always preferred characters that skirt the border between black and white, and Wilson gives us two intriguingly grey players in the proud German commander and the conflicted Jewish scholar.
For fans of the horror genre, The Keep offers up some truly terrifying images: Lutz’s head-first descent into the dark, narrow passage where he meets his inevitable demise, the reveal of the hanged man in the painting, the marionette-like midnight visit to Kaempffer’s bedside by the murdered soldiers, the engulfing darkness of the inescapable shadows, Woermann’s helpless self-awareness “beyond the end”, the Germans attempt to escape the final assault, one of the victims seeking refuge beneath his bed only to be smothered by his fallen comrades. Holy smokes, this would make a great movie! Yeah, I know they already made a movie based on the book (or a semblance thereof). Did you happen to see it? If you did, then you’ll know why I feel the need to reiterate: The Keep could make for a great movie!
Although I will admit to finding the late shift from horror to fantasy/adventure a little jarring at first, I came to appreciate the unexpected progression as yet another narrative curveball that defied the genre’s conventions. The threat is finally revealed and it turns out to be a vampire – no, not your typical vampire but one possessed of nobility and honor – no, scratch that, he’s not a vampire, nor is he noble. He is an insidiously evil force – actually, it turns out it’s not as simple as that either.
A highly enjoyable read and one of my favorites of the genre.
Dyginc writes: “I loved Woermann! I see him as an anti-hero who is proud of his service, loves his country or what used to be his country, and now finds himself entwined with the arm of evil.”
Answer: I wholeheartedly agree. Woermann is an incredibly well-drawn character, one who stubbornly clings to his ideals like a doomed Captain refusing to abandon his doomed ship. I felt a lot of sympathy for this character because I knew from the get-go there would be no refuge or possible happy ending for him.
Dyginc also writes: “I was instantly drawn to Magda. […] She was not allowed to follow her dreams because of her “responsibility” to take care of her father and men like Hitler that saw her as unworthy.”
Answer: Magda is even more of victim of her father’s illness that he is. She has missed out on life’s opportunities in order to care for her father, and that loyalty is strained to the breaking point when events at the keep take an even darker turn. When things ultimately come to a head between the two, it struck me as though it had less to do with Molasar’s dark influence than with a long-standing, deep-seeded resentment on her part (coupled, perhaps, with Cuza’s realization that he had cost his daughter her best years).
Iamza writes: “It is easy to sympathize with Woermann, who is a man just trying to his duty as best he can, and still stay true to his own beliefs.”
Answer: And that’s what makes him such a tragic figure. As you said, he represents a different era. While his courage in the face of Kaempffer and his ilk is commendable, we already know how things will turn out for him. Whether he survives the experience at the keep or not, there is no place for this old soldier in the new Germany.
Today’s video: From the set of Search and Rescue. Click on the link or scroll down and watch it below –
Today’s mailbag –
Labellementeuse writes: “I’ve heard rumblings that the all-woman gate team will first be met on a survey on a planet accompanied by John (even though there’s already military on the team) and Carson (even though there’s already a doctor on the team.) This can’t be right! Surely John and Carson show up after something particularly in Carson’s field was found, and John tagged along because he was bored? I know you wouldn’t want to imply that the all-girl team needs male supervision, as the rumours I’ve heard imply.
Equally, I’m sure you didn’t consider introducing the all-female team in one episode, only to kill a bunch of them (here, have an all girl team – haha, sorry, we killed them!) Or in a horror episode so that you can have lots of screaming women running around to conform to the genre’s worst stereotypes. Right?”
Answer: Right. So I assume if John and Carson show up after something, oh, particular in Carson’s field was found, and John simply tagged along, and we actually offer up an explanation for the atypical all-female team, and don’t have them running around to conform to the genre’s worst stereotype but present them as strong, level-headed individuals – then I’m sure that when the episode finally airs and all of the criticism proves unfounded, the production offices will be inundated with letters of apology from the pre-emptive critics out there.
Zona writes: “I just realized that in your shots from ‘Ghost in the Machine’ Ronon still has his signature dreadlocks. Did the plan for them to go in ‘Broken Ties’ change or is it simple a case of things still being shot out of sequence?”
Answer: After much discussion it was decided that while Jason could lose his dreads, the character of Ronon would be keeping his.
Thornyrose writes: “If you’re reached the prep stage for Whispers, does that mean filming starts next week?”
Answer: Yep. Next Tuesday.
Smiley_face06 writes: “Sorry to hear about The Budapest closing down! Is there any possibility that they just rudely relocated without informing you?”
Answer: Nope. Sadly, it’s gone for good.
Montybird writes: “I am having problems viewing your remixes under your BaronDestructo account at Photobucket. I can view the regular videos just fine. What am I doing wrong?!”
Answer: Nothing. It’s a problem with photo bucket.
Coolbreeze writes: “The twist toward the end, where we find out that Molasar/Rasalom was not a vampire but something much older, and that he started and used the vampire myth for his purposes was cool, but I wished more time had been spent on it.”
Answer: Well, it turns out The Keep is the first in a six-book series called The Adversary Cycle. The second book in the series is The Tomb if you’re interested.
Moms2398 writes: “Any word on when R.C. will be guest blogging?”
Answer: Not yet.
Trekkiegirlt writes: “Joe, I’m looking forward to participating in my first book discussion when “The Empire of Ice Cream” makes its appearance. That said I’m not really sure what to do. Is that stupid or what!?! Anyway do I submit comments the day before the discussion?”
Answer: Feel free to submit your comments on The Empire of Ice Cream (including any questions you may have for the author, Jeffrey Ford) starting Monday, April 21st.
Lawren writes: “ OMG!!! This is how I learn about Budapest’s demise! Never again will I be able to properly satiate the desire to eat my arms weight in Schnitzel. Sure there are other places but not like Budapest. I will long remember barely being able to finish my pork or chicken schnitzel only to have Carl say “are you gonna finish that?” A dark day indeed.”
Answer: Yeah, Carl took it a lot harder than I thought he would. We’re thinking of going out later this week and drowning our sorrows in Transylvanian sausages and perogies. You in?