I love vampires. That’s become a taboo thing to admit, with vampires now considered more romantic figures than frightening ones. But it’s true, and I can’t deny it. I love vampires of all kinds. The monster, the seducer, and all the very weird in-betweens. The vampire is one of our most richly varied creatures, from folklore to pop culture. There have been so many twists on the idea, that I obviously feel it bears talking about.
Today, I want to go over the mainstay novels that anyone who’s interested should read. As much as I feel you’ve probably all heard of these, they are the best place to begin.
Dracula by Bram Stoker. The novel that started a craze. I like to put vampires into two categories generally: the monster and the seducer, as I hinted at above. Dracula is an example of the perfect blend. To varying degrees in adaptations, he’s been more one or the other. But generally he’s the best example of what we imagine as the classic vampire. The book itself is also a classic for a reason, relating the harrowing tale of a group of people preyed on by the supernatural forces of Count Dracula. If you’ve seen renditions of this in film or think you know the story but haven’t read the book, please do read the book. It illuminates so much, and there is yet to be a film version that does it full justice.
Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Carmilla is becoming more popular in recent years, and it’s a good thing, as it’s another classic everyone ought to experience. In this case, we follow a female vampire. Preying on and bonding with another female, so this was far ahead of its time. A wonderful read if you’re looking for diversity in classics. Because it’s not subject to the usual tropes, it manages to pull off of some very spooky folklore that makes it feel timeless. It’s a very clever exploration of sexuality and societal limitations, which is truly the best use you can have for a vampire.
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. Now we’re at straight-up monster. There is nothing of the seducer here. Nothing about being a vampire in Salem’s Lot is remotely romantic or sensual. It’s deadly, frightening, and disgusting. It takes the taboo of blood-drinking and transformation to its extreme as we witness an entire New England town succumbing to the will of Kurt Barlow. We have a small band of heroes trying to save the day, with some reflections toward Dracula, though on the subject of whether you could survive against such a force, it’s a lot less forgiving.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. There is something of the monster still to Rice’s Louis, Lestat, and Claudia, but a lot less than in the works that preceded it. She keeps some horror edge, but her Vampire Chronicles are a lot more about romance and seduction. It’s not always pretty for the humans, but often the relationships between these immortal creatures are painted in a Baroque, luscious light. This book was revolutionary in the way that vampires were treated as tragic figures trying to navigate eternity surrounded by death and changes they couldn’t properly adapt to. It opened the doors to a whole new wave of vampire fiction, for better or worse.
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. The most modern read on this list. It says something, to me, that a writer can pick up such an old idea and breathe new life into it. In this case, Lindqvist makes his human and his vampire childhood friends. He gives the human child a touch of the psychotic and his vampire child a touch of empathy, and it makes them the perfect pair. Again, it’s not all fun and games, as this child is a vampire and must eat. But there’s definitely just as much Anne Rice here as Stephen King. This character is living a tragedy with only one friend to their name. It’s very moving and proves we’ll never run out of new ways to tell these stories.
Rest assured this is not my only article I have planned for this topic. There shall be more. In the meantime, tell me about some of your favorite vampiric reads. As always, happy geeking!
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