Theodore Sturgeon's brilliantly chilling and plausible twist on the vampire novel. He sheds most of the vampire genre tropes, often thumbing his nose at them in the process: the protagonist's real name is "Bela," his parents are from "Eastern Europe," the novel has a large epistolary content like Dracula, and the army psychiatrist stands in for Dr. Van Helsing, even as he gives us a vampire that requires almost no suspension of disbelief. Its almost as if Sturgeon bet that he could write a better vampire novel without using any of that hackneyed crap.Hillbilly Army chump "George Smith" gets himself in trouble by punching an army officer when questioned about something the military censors found in a letter to his sweetheart back home in Podunk. Through a bunch of typically Kafkaesque Army mix-ups ol' George gets himself shipped back home to isolation in a rubber room and a straitjacket for three months. When the Army figures out it has made a huge mistake and may have taken a guy who was already having some problems and put him completely off the rails by shoving him in a padded cell, they decide to just do whatever they can to get the guy discharged and sent home. The overworked psychiatrist in charge of tying up these loose ends and getting rid of the guy makes the big mistake of actually caring about his job and starts to dig into George's case. He just can't figure out what made a classic "do what you're told and never volunteer" kind of Army guy punch that officer unprovoked. The censored letter is lost and the offended officer is dead. It just keeps bothering him. He can't just shovel this guy out the door like he is told to.We can tell George is a weirdo from the get go, but Sturgeon brilliantly layers on details through letters, anecdotes, therapy notes, interviews, statements that gradually lead us to begin to believe that the padded cell is exactly the right place for George.Ultimately Sturgeon even manages to make us feel empathy for a guy that we wouldn't want to be in the same room with.Sturgeon also plays with the reader by intentionally breaking the fourth wall and telling us that, after all, this is just a piece of fiction, even as he knows he is drawing us a vampire we can all REALLY believe is waiting outside once the lights are back on. He ultimately even invites us to write our own happy ending, if that is what we want...A little page turner that just keeps on giving as we gradually suspect and then know.