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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Carlos Fuentes

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To purchase Vlad

Title: Vlad
Author: Carlos Fuentes
Genre: Novel
Written: 2010 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 123 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Vlad - US
Vlad - US (Spanish)
Vlad - UK
Vlad - Canada
Vlad - India
Vlad - España
  • Spanish title: Vlad
  • Translated by Alejandro Branger and Ethan Shaskan Bumas

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Our Assessment:

B+ : Dracula comes to Mexico City -- a trifle, but nicely done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Globe . 8/7/2012 Alan Cheuse
The LA Times . 23/9/2012 Dale Bailey
The National . 25/8/2012 Scott Esposito
The NY Times Book Rev. . 5/8/2012 Jeff VanderMeer
Publishers Weekly . 21/5/2012 .
San Francisco Chronicle B- 27/8/2012 Ilan Stavans

  From the Reviews:
  • "The portrait of the young Mexican middle-class couple on the make gradually becoming enmeshed in the machinations of the blood-drinking monster in moccasins is an ingenious demonstration that the best works of horror show us as much about life and society as they do about death." - Alan Cheuse, Boston Globe

  • "More problematic, the novel fails to develop the strains of social satire that are hidden just beneath the surface." - Dale Bailey, The Los Angeles Times

  • "If the vampire side of this story comes off as unnecessarily formulaic in the opening stages, the other side of the story, Navarro's marriage, holds more interest. (...) As befits a fable-like story, Vlad's short plot moves in a very schematic way: first the mystery is established, then the sudden realisation and catastrophe that we knew was coming occurs, and finally there is the concluding showdown and denouement. (...) Fuentes' book can at times be an interesting ode to love and youth, but it feels rather small." - Scott Esposito, The National

  • "Will readers appreciate a novel that pivots between hilarity and fear, insightful characterization and flamboyant fountains of blood ? Letís hope so, because Vlad displays the strengths of a great writerís late oeuvre to excellent effect." - Jeff VanderMeer, The New York Times Book Review

  • "A deliciously barbed bagatelle from a fiction master, with perhaps a strain of allegory for a world devoured by rapaciousness." - Publishers Weekly

  • "I won't summarize the plot. Suffice it to say that there are coffins and corpses and abundant pools of blood. What I will say is that, unfortunately, the mechanics are utterly contrived. In fact, not a single iota is believable. Of course, that's what Fuentes might have been after: a tribute to the gothic genre, which by definition is artificial, cartoonish. But to make artificial what already is fake is no winning formula. (...) Vlad is no Aura and (although this isn't a critique), Fuentes is no Bram Stoker." - Ilan Stavans, San Francisco Chronicle

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Vlad is narrated by Yves Navarro, a lawyer in his forties whose life seems to be going just fine. Business seems good, and he's happy with his family life, enjoying drawn-out fancy breakfasts -- and a fairly passionate intimate life -- with his wife, Asunción, and the proud father of a ten-year-old girl, Magdalena. Sure, there is the shadow of the lost son, Didier, who died four years earlier, but otherwise .....
       As it turns out, not everything is quite as contentedly placid as it seems -- though by the time Navarro realizes it, it will be too late.
       Navarro's boss, Zurinaga, turns over an urgent but rather simple matter to him; normally it would be delegated to someone lower in the office, but as luck would have it, those who normally would deal with such matters aren't available. (Of course, it's only with hindsight that Navarro realizes that luck has little to do with anything that follows.) Navarro is to find a house for a client -- an old friend of Zurinaga's from eastern Europe who wishes to emigrate. With a wife in real estate and his command of French, Navarro appears to be a "perfect match" for the man and task -- as, indeed, he is, but for rather a different reason that he only learns of later. But the client does have some very special and peculiar requirements for the building -- such as having all the windows blacked out.
       "All my friends call me Vlad", is how the count who moves in introduces himself, and he is a pretty creepy customer -- ancient, hairless, looking "like a ridiculous marionette". Surprisingly, he has a ten-year-old daughter, too ... and suggests that Navarro bring over Magdalena so the girls can play together ..... Navarro quickly wants nothing more to do with him, but that's easier said than done, as he slowly comes to understand that he's caught in a rather larger web that has been spun around him. There are reasons why he was tasked with arranging the purchase of the house, and his purpose goes considerably beyond that -- even if he's not aware of that until he is completely ensnared.
       Early on, Navarro's boss wonders: "why the so-called 'upper classes' in Mexico never hang on to their stations long". Social mobility, Navarro suggests: "the possibility of bettering one's position: a permeability of class boundaries". In Vlad, Fuentes' characters cling desperately not to class and money, but to life itself, willing to sacrifice anything and all for the promise of immortality. Vlad brings the promise of the everlasting, and that's a great temptation for several of the characters -- as Navarro learns too late.
       A straightforward but nicely presented modern-day Dracula story, Vlad substitutes ruthless capitalist bloodsucking with the more literal kind -- but what it drives people to, and the human toll it takes, is comparable, making for an agreeably creepy little thriller. Nicely done.

- M.A.Orthofer, 21 May 2012

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Vlad: Reviews: Carlos Fuentes: Other books by Carlos Fuentes under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Mexican author Carlos Fuentes lived 1928 to 2012. Winner of the Venezuelan Romulo Gallegos Prize (for Terra Nostra) and the Cervantes Prize (1997). He has taught at Harvard, Princeton, Brown, and Columbia, among other universities.

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