Do you like vampires? No, do you REALLY like vampires? This is a collection of 24 short stories, all dealing with vampires and how they have changed in modern fiction. Editor Nancy Kilpatrick is a little obsessed with vampires, and her prologue is worth reading.
The vampires in this novel run the gamut from bluesy Faustian demons (Soulfinger) to not-quite-altruistic medical personnel (How Magnificent is the Universal Donor). A few of them are even smouldering-hot Byronic heroes (though none of them quite sparkle.) In one of the most memorable stories (An Ember Amongst the Fallen), vampires are the dominant race, and keep human-like creatures as chattel for food. About
One of the traits I noticed in this anthology–and I don’t know how representative it is–was the motif of vampire as amoral superhero. Most of these vampires have many, many, many powers and very few (if any) weaknesses. Some, but not all, are affected by sunlight, but even those who burn to a crisp at dawn make up for it with super-human strength, speed, and occasionally telepathy. These vampires are often oh, so arrogant, and ladle contempt upon the human race.
That’s one of the hard things I have with vampire fiction in general. I am a human, as are most of my friends, and I don’t really like reading about people who consider us nothing but snack machines. It’s almost as bad as reading a viewpoint character who thinks that women are good for sex and nothing else–I can understand that some people really feel that way, but ew. Do they really need to be in the spotlight? I want my fiction to be pleasurable.
And that’s the other problem I had with this anthology. Most of the plots are variants of “Vampire meets human, human dies in grotesquely violent fashion.” I can only read so many accounts of people having their ribs crushed, eyes popped out, necks bitten open, etc. without wanting to set the book on the shelf and not look back. But this book was a gift from the publisher, so I decided to power through. I had to take several breaks to read lighter fare, so the anthology took me almost a month to finish.
Some of the stories entranced me despite their gore, namely “Come to Me” and “All You Can Eat, All the Time,” the former for its cultural allusion and the latter for an interesting narrative. I also liked “The New Forty” and “Mamma’s Boy” because they didn’t depress me like the others, and “Sleepless in Calgary” because I found it clever.
So if you really, really like vampires, if you’re the sort of person who thinks that “Plants vs. Zombies” should have more brain-chewing, who can watch the Saw movies back to back and eat popcorn while you’re doing it, who thinks that open-heart surgery is fine entertainment–this might be your book. As for me, I learned that I don’t really like vampires as much as I thought. They’re snooty, amoral, superheroes, and their eating habits make me want to hurl. After I wash my hands, I want to look at pictures of cute baby animals.