If this is the first time you’re seeing this, go check out the previous post about where to start with vampire fiction. This is for the people who have already read the classics and the popular books. Now we get into the reads that are off the beaten path.
The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis. This might be considered spoilers in a way. For most of the book, the stories in this collection seem normal. They’re vaguely connected. They take place in the same kind of world Ellis always writes about: the world of the disaffected rich kid. It’s as wonderful as all his other writing, but toward the end, it suddenly veers into the truly unexpected. There are vampires. Not metaphorical ones but literal ones. I don’t want to say much more than that. I’m hoping this will be like a carrot on a string that will convince people to read this fantastic book. Also, I say they’re not metaphorical, but in a way, they are. In Ellis’s universe peopled by the selfish elite, vampires fit right in.
The Summoning by Bentley Little. This one is more in line with something like Salem’s Lot. A small town is being stalked by a vampire. Still, I’d wager this is even more brutal and disturbing than Salem’s Lot, mainly because Little goes out of his way to make this vampire the sickest you’ve ever seen. He’s like a monstrous vulture that’s instantly repellent. This novel was clearly a response to the “vampire as seducer” I talked about in the previous post, as that was steadily becoming a more popular trope. Therefore, if you prefer your vampires as monsters, this is surely for you.
Children of the Night by Dan Simmons. Here we end up with the vampire as a vehicle for a thriller. Simmons does this by a) trying to write their “land of origin” as seen in popular fiction with a more realistic and modern feel. And b) by treating vampirism like a disease or a genetic disorder. We follow a doctor who has encountered a sickly child only to discover said child is, at least medically speaking, a vampire. Intrigue follows when it becomes clear there is a shadowy group that wants their baby back (no Chili’s jokes, please). Like all of Simmons’s work, it’s thoroughly written and fascinating with characters that feel very real. It becomes an interesting deconstruction with Simmons taking the line of “what if vampires were real?”
The Blood Opera Sequence by Tanith Lee. This one is a series consisting of three books: Dark Dance; Personal Darkness; and Darkness, I. This is more in line with the Anne Rice vampire, though it manages to be far different. It centers on a family, the Scarabae. The first book begins with Rachaela, a young woman who never knew her father who is suddenly contacted by the Scarabae. They want to reconnect with her, and reluctantly she heeds the call. What ensues is bizarre, dark, and full of content that I’d warn you off of if you’re squeamish. Comparing themselves to ancient royal families rather freely, they practice incest to continue their family line. There’s all sorts of questionable stuff going on. It reads like a modern gothic, pushing the envelope well beyond what even Bram Stoker or Emily Bronte would’ve dared write. “Opera” is the word, essentially. It’s decadent, nasty fun if that’s what you’re looking for.
Dracula in Love by John Shirley. This was a recent read for me, and I absolutely loved it. I do have to warn, like with the above series, that there is a lot in here that is not for sensitive readers. Rape plays a major role in this Dracula retelling. The thing that recommends it is that said rape is actually part of a very clever deconstruction of Dracula as a seductive figure. Shirley brings us a sexual vampire, yes, but it’s not a good thing. It becomes yet another part of what makes Dracula so horrifying. That meta twist makes this a work of genius in my eyes. There’s also a lot of other twists and turns going on here, including using religion in a much different way than most vampire stories do, but it’s clear that Shirley knows what he’s doing.
Next time, we’ll be talking about some unread vampire reads that I want to get to in the future. Until then, happy geeking!
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