THE FACTS: The Titanic struck an iceberg late on the night of April 14, 1912. The unsinkable ship actually sank rather quickly, taking only about 3 hours to send more than 1,500 passengers and crew to a cold, watery grave. While the Carpathia did come to its rescue, picking up over 700 survivors from the lifeboats, they didn't arrive until almost 2 hours after the Titanic slipped beneath the waves.
THE FICTION: No significant departure from the facts, except for the fact that Carpathia does receive the distress call directly from Titanic, rather than the much later relay message from Newfoundland, and are able to arrive a bit more quickly. Oh, yeah, and there are vampires on board. Kind of important, that little detail.
Matt Forbeck's Carpathia wasn't quite what I was expecting, which is both good and bad. On the positive side, he wastes no time in getting to the iceberg, and does an amazing job detailing the actual sinking of Titanic. Some readers may feel the sinking is drawn out a bit too long, but I thought the pacing was perfect, really allowing him to create some tension and establish the all-too-real horrors the survivors were forced to endure. Having the characters spend so much time in the water also allows for the supernatural horror to make an early appearance, with a small group of vampires slipping out of Carpathia's hold to menace the survivors, a la Peter Benchley's Jaws. In reality, I doubt the survivors would have really been worried about sharks in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, but it's a fun scene that works well, so I'm willing to ignore the discrepancy.
It's once we get on board Carpathia that the story crashed headlong into my expectations, the pace slowed, and things began to flounder a bit. Instead of capitalizing on the claustrophobic confines of a ship and the sense of isolation at sea, allowing the overpowering scent of blood and death in the air to inflame the hunger and lust of the stowaways, Forbeck seems content to fill space with a little mystery and romance. That's not to say the mystery angle doesn't work - it does, and quite well - but I really wanted to see some carnage, with battles and bodies strewn throughout the ship. As for the romance, I had a harder time swallowing it than I did anything supernatural, but as awkward as the love triangle is, it does set up a rather satisfying conclusion a lot further on.
There is, of course, a somewhat forced connection to the Dracula mythos here, and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. Forbeck drops some rather suggestive names on us early on in Quin Harker, Abe Holmword and Lucy Seward, but takes far too long to clarify their connection to the Harker, Holmwood, and Seward we know so well, confusing rather than intriguing the reader. He eventually does make the connection, alluding to the fact that Bram's novel was more fact than fiction, but he fails to establish any sort of link between the vampires of Dracula and those of Carpathia. While I'm glad he didn't use the tired old son/daughter/sire of Dracula angle that has been used in so many pseudo-sequels, you can't just make the connection and then let it hang there, with no resolution.
The last part of the story certainly offers up some surprises, especially following the discovery of the vampires' lair deep within the cargo hold, and Forbeck finally offers us some of the carnage we were waiting for. After such a long lull, a lot of significant activity happens very quickly, and there's a 'twist' to the love triangle that I definitely saw coming for a while, but it all makes for a satisfying conclusion. One final note, I have to give him full credit for sticking so well to the conventions, language, and dialogue of the Victorian era - it really does feel like and 'old' story, and there are no jarring incongruities to remind you that it's not.