I would like someone to pet me in a congratulatory manner, only to acknowledge the feat of me finishing this book. That is not to say that I did not enjoy this huge brick of words (I gave it 4 stars dammit!), but the last couple of stories did start to feel like a bit of a drag. All in all though, this was a great read – very Octobery too, if I do say so myself!
Compiled and edited by John Joseph Adams, this anthology of vampire stories is filled to the brim with some very well known and widely well loved authors. Each story has it’s own introduction, giving you a brief background on the author, noting some of their most popular works and on occasion, giving you a little background or insight into story featured itself. I really liked this added touch. Within this book, you shall find a prime display of all the reasons why our culture can be considered a little bit obsessed with the idea of vampirism, and all that it eludes to. Why have we romanticised this idea of a traditionally terrifying creature? Some to the point of idolising them and literally practising a version of vampirism for themselves. Which, let’s be honest, is more than a tad worrying. Eternal life, the allure of the mysterious, indescribable beauty, the ties between sex and death… – all this and more you will find in this book.
Some stories present themselves as ancient tales, some very much set in the now, and others programmed way into the distant future. There are even those that go as far as taking very real life events, and throwing some bloodsuckers into the equation. Each short tale has it’s own unique take on the mystical possibility of the existence of vampires. Whilst I didn’t enjoy all of them, no two stories were the same. A plethora of different plots, voices and ideas, pairing vampires with all sorts, such as religion, sci-fi elements, ancient plains and of course, plenty of eroticism.
Sad sap that I am, I wrote a couple sentences on each of the 37 stories in this collection. To make this the slightest bit shorter though, I’m only going to review, or in some instances summarise, the 20 that I enjoyed the most below (in other words, my 4 or 5 star reads.) I shall write them in the nonsensical order that I read them in, because I am a mess. Feel free to skip the following though, as upon reflection I thoroughly relished reading most of them, and like totally just go and get this for yourself? It’s an absolute must for any vampire lover. But if you are a glutton for punishment and in any way interested in what I have to say about these stories then prepare yourself.
Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman: A warped version of Snow White (definitely NOT as we most know it!) Paedophilia, necrophilia, perhaps a little dashing of incest… Need I say more? A dark and twisted treat.
Mama Gone by Jane Yolen: A touch of richly told Old Southern Gothic charm in this tale about brave little Mandy Jane, who doesn’t cry when her Mama dies. Yet how will she fair when her Mama rises again to terrorise the townfolk? I loved that this was from a child’s perspective, especially as her mother was the vampire. Very original and I loved the writing style.
Foxtrot at High Noon by Sergei Lukyanenko: Even though this is set in a Post-Apocalyptic future, it has a classic Western vibe for me, complete with a good old shoot out in the middle. A good twist to the ending which I genuinely didn’t see coming.
Ode to Edvard Munch by Caitlin R. Kiernan: I was really fond of the languid, dreamlike quality embraced by this story. Rich and ancient in feel, much like the vampire who features herself. In the intro to the story the author is quoted saying that our infatuation with vampires comes down to a ‘socially sanctioned necrophilia’, and for some reason I liked this phrase, weirdo that I am. I think it hits the nail on the head. Or coffin… (ha-ha! I’m hilarious.) ‘The Vampire’ by Edvard Munch, which partly inspired this story, really visually compliments this story in my opinion.
Hunger by Gabriela Lee: This was awesome because it introduced me to a version of the vampire myth that I hadn’t come across before – Manananggal – which originates in the Philippines, also where this story is set. This breed of creature is a beautiful woman who is able to separate her body into two halves when she needs to feed – usually by sucking the unborn foetus from a mother’s womb – morbidly intriguing stuff!
Lifeblood by Michael A. Burstein: A story that explores religions influence in the act of fending of or aborting the disease of vampirism, in particular this story looks at Judaism. This cleverly has an underlying message of religion having the power to overcome dark forces, without imposing any set viewpoint or opinion on the reader. It simply served as a well written, though provoking story.
Under St. Peter’s by Harry Turtledove: Taking place in the core of the Vatican, another story looking at devout religion in close context with vampirism. Not much more can be said without giving a lot away, but there may or may not be a tad of blasphemy involved.
Infestation by Garth Nix: A high-tech, action packed, vamp fight story. Set quite a distant into the future, with a whopping sci-fi kick. Vampires are not quite the beings we are used to them being presented as in a lot of modern works. The beginning was giving me a lot of ‘Fellowship of the Sun’ vibes if you’ve ever watched True Blood, but in terms of a way more hardcore and technologically advanced fight squad. I appreciated the writing style, a very fast paced story.
Life is the Teacher by Carrie Vaughn: Sexy, seductive and suave. The simple story of a reluctant vampires first feed, but written in a very alluring way. A likeable protagonist with an honest and emotional voice that allowed her to bounce of the page. There was something so innocent and delicate about her that you wouldn’t expect of a vampire. She was struggling to accept herself, and I felt for her.
The Vechi Barbat by Nancy Kilpatrick: This is possibly my most favourite, because depending on the reader you could take away so many different things from it. It looks at the struggle between the pull of your home and roots, and the sometimes polar opposite of what you hope and dream for yourself. Mental illness is explored – is the protagonist wrongfully being held as a patient? Did this actually happen, or is it all a figment of her imagination, a result of her regrets? Perhaps also the creepiest of the lot for me, and full of superstition, tradition and culture. The ending is written in a way that you can make your own mind up about what actually transpired.
The Beautiful, The Damned by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: A kind of sequel to ‘The Great Gatsby’ – with vampires. Need much more be said? It was a fun spin on the story that was tasteful, paid homage to and didn’t disrespect the classic.
Necros by Brian Lumley: Set in Italy, we are lead through a man’s fascination with a beautiful woman and her curious relationship with her much older male companion. Full of suspense, and quite jolting at the climax.
Lucy, in Her Splendor by Charles Coleman Finlay: A man caring for his sick wife in their cosy little B&B. But this couple is not quite as wholesome as they once appear, and are deceptively pretty twisted. Turns out they have quite the large something to hide.
Abraham’s Boys by Joe Hill: A nod to Van Helsing and his not so well known two young sons. To be blunt, Van Helsing is quite the asshole in this, but the time has come to teach his boys the family business. Doesn’t quite go that smoothly, unsurprisingly.
Nunc Dimittis by Tanith Lee: ‘Nunc dimittis servum tuum’, a biblical phrase meaning ‘now dismiss your servant.’ This story evoked a lot of thoughts in me, of how people need and crave different things from each other. Of how feelings such as jealously and devotion, relief and regret, can all become intertwined and indistinguishable along the way. This one was written with serious craft.
The Master of Rampling Gate by Anne Rice: My first venture into Anne Rice’s writing, it’s no wonder she’s considered a master of this genre. Gothic and haunting with moments of fleeting languid brilliance. Nothing short of decadence in written formation.
In Darkness, Angels by Eric Van Lustbader: A truly gothic story, reminiscent of Dracula itself. A huge looming castle on a lone island, an ethereally beautiful and captivating woman, a tormented writer, and monster future in-laws – quite literally.
Finders Keepers by L. A. Banks: A lonely female vampire longing for her lost love, comes across a pained old soul in the body of a gorgeous wronged cop. Instant chemistry ensures, there’s a little bit of crime, a little bit of action and violence, and she may have just found the one worth keeping.
Endless Night by Barbara Roden: An inquisitive writer, an Antartic expedition, a man’s journal’s harbouring a deep dark secret, and a vampire we are not quite used to – one with a conscience.
Sunrise on Running Water by Barbara Hambly: What will become of the vampire who happens to be journeying on the Titanic when it sinks? A vampire who is at the same time, being hunted by the vengeful sister of one of his victims. The original and darkly humorous, though not necessarily likeable, voice of the vampire himself words this tale.
Wow. Well done, you, if you actually stuck with me through all that. You are a trouper. And I am both grateful and apologetic towards you for putting you through it all. Hope at the very least you wanna go read some vamp stories now.
Thanks for reading!