One may report, joyfully, that here, at last, is a book that will confound the taxonomists -- those busy folk who put literature, politics, esthetics and almost anything else into labeled cubbies so that the rest of us can convince ourselves that we understand them. Is "Vampire Junction" a horror story? Yes. No. Is it a love story? No. Oh, yes! Is it fantasy? Certainly. Possibly not. If not, then it's horror. But then again . . .

Terrible things happen in this book -- murders, tortures, rapes, abandonments; but the book isn't about these things. If it's about rock music, about mass hysteria, about personal uncertainty in the convolutions of the human mind; if, indeed, as the title proclaims, it's about vampires, and if you are the reader who sees "Gulliver's Travels" as adventures with little folk and smart horses, then "Vampire Junction" is about the horror, et cetera, listed above. But if you are the reader who judges the content of literature by its content of metaphor -- by its bearing upon the human condition -- then you will find in this remarkable book a wealth of insight.

Timothy Valentine, young (young?) rock star; troubled person looking for therapy; Timmy, 2,000-year-old monster, victim of a terrible thirst, possessed of a powerful charisma; Timmy, hopeless, lonely, wealthy, amused, forlorn; here is a creature, survivor of Vesuvius and the Hitler Holocaust, a boy with the voice of an angel, a killer, a lover. Taken alone, he is as intricate a tapestry as all of this story.

Somtow provokes. He uses all the vampire fixin's -- rambling castles, mirrors, handfuls of old earth, sharpened stakes -- often, as if he is showing them, not as baubles pretending to be horrors, but horrors exposed to you as baubles. He provokes thought too, more often than many a contemporary "serious" novel. For example, "Truth," he tells us at one point, "is merely the prevailing percentage of our private illusions." Perhaps in this one line he captures the nature of this long and complex narrative. It would take so little, bizarre as it is, to make it all be true.

Somtow's skill as a novelist is manifest throughout. One comes out of the long and perplexing journey through this book knowing, and caring, about a panoply of new friends and acquaintances, living and dead and unalive. There is also Somtow's gift of timing and that "dynamic spectrum" derived, one suspects, from music; the sure sense of forte and of pianissimo at just the right moments; of "leading tones" and changes of tempo quite as applicable to writing as they are to composition.

It is easy to predict great things for so accomplished and talented a writer as this. He will -- and in some ways, needs to -- grow, but there is no doubt that he will.