I am not a vampire expert, but I feel reasonably well-versed on the literary phenomenon of blood-suckers and eternity seekers. It began with a late Saturday night reading of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which my college roommate interrupted by coming home early and startling me to the point of my heart skipping several beats. Stoker’s Dracula still strikes me as one of the most frightening vampires because he came across as something entirely different from what he truly was – you know, evil.
Anne Rice then wrote The Vampire Chronicles, which I absolutely had to pick up. Interview with a Vampire was a new perspective on the vampire tale. This main character, Louis, was not a monster; you could root for him. In fact, you could understand the dilemma he faced in needing to drink something he considered vile in order to survive. Now he did have a friend named Lestat that was about as trustworthy as a drug-dealing baby daddy with a few arrest warrants. The story of that vein-drainer was told in her second book, The Vampire Lestat – also an interesting read. But by Queen of the Damned, her third one, it seemed she had lost her groove a bit.
I researched vampires at that time, however, and discovered some interesting facts which I still recall. For instance, Dracula was named after Vlad Dracul, a ruler of Wallachia who was known for murdering his enemies by impaling them on long stakes driven into the ground. Another interesting point is that many cultures have a vampire myth of some kind – tales of a creature who survives by drinking the blood of others. The interest in blood as a life-giving substance was likely due to an ancient understanding of life and death. Pre-surgery and scans, people couldn’t see the offending disease or injury at times, but they knew that if you lost too much blood, you died. So what if you got the blood of another? What effect would that have?
A few years down the road, having read the Lily Bard and Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris, I picked up the first Sookie Stackhouse book – in which a charming Civil-War-aged vampire woos a contemporary, small-town waitress and they solve mysteries. At least, I guess that’s what happens in the series. I read the first one and stopped. I love Charlaine’s writing, but the series that spawned True Blood was a bit much for me.
And then comes Twilight and its three sequels, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. Now Stephanie Meyer takes the sympathetic vampire a vast jump forward into a modern-day Romeo. We all know it’s a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. The vampires are the Montagues, and the humans are the Capulets. Bella and Edward have an impossible love story: How can they ever be together? She did change up some of the vampire myths; like how Edward merely sparkles in the bright daylight, rather than being burned by the sun. And no coffins. It’s a hopeful story. In fact, other than the division of Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, all’s well that ends well. (Wasn’t that Shakespeare too?)
Other vampire books I’ve read include:
Vladimir Tod series by Heather Brewer
Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising by Jason Henderson
Casa Dracula series by Marta Acosta
And I’ve barely bitten into the vampire genre. You could fill a large bookstore with vampire titles to seek your teeth into. (Okay, enough with bad clichés.)
Anyway, I’m wondering what I should tackle next. I can go either way on whether vampires are horrendously evil or inexplicably charming; whether they should be stabbed with a stake or served a tantalizing meal of rare sausage and blood soup; whether being bitten by a vampire involves certain death or passionate lovemaking for an eternity. I just want a great story. And I like hearing how people interpret the vampire myth differently.
So what vampire novels do you like? Are you a fan of the vampire genre in general? What do you think about our obsession with the vampire myth?
For my own self, by the way, I’m totally Team Edward. I can’t imagine wanting to date a dog. And getting nibbled on the neck can be kind of nice.