Monday, August 15, 2011

Captain Obvious list of favorite vampire novels

It would be safe to say that there have been more vampire books published since "Dracula" came out in 1897 than any other sub-genre in horror. Far too many of them suck. For that reason, the following list of my favorite vampire novels will feel painfully obvious and maybe even too easy. If you don't like it, bite me. (That's two vampire puns for you, folks.)

'Salem's Lot by Stephen King.

I told you this would be a list of the obvious. 'Salem's Lot was one of the first vampire novels I read and at the time, it scared the hell out of me. The power of King's best novels is that the small towns and the people who live in them feel so real and normal. They aren't much different than the town I grew up in.

It seemed completely plausible that my town could be taken over by vampires. And yes, there was a part of me that hoped that would happen.

King's other great attribute is in the power of his secondary characters. Dr. Cody and Father Callahan (strong enough to get a new life in the Dark Tower series) get two of the biggest moments in the book. Cody's death is classic gore (you can read the original version of the scene in the Illustrated Edition). Callahan, for all intents and purposes, is raped and forced to recognize his lost faith.

'Salem's Lot really is King at the top of his game.

A year after King released his take on vampires, Anne Rice gave the world "Interview with the Vampire."

"Interview" is a sweeping tale of one lonely vampire's creation and evolution. While Louis is the primary storyteller, Rice eventually hands the series off to her true love, Lestat. The remainder of The Vampire Chronicles (at least, most of the ones that matter) follow Lestat from his birth, rebirth as a vampire and so and so forth.

Tragically, Rice began repeating herself just as her popularity was swelling. "The Vampire Armand" is almost exactly the same as "The Vampire Lestat." Yes, they are beautifully written, but the tale of Armand didn't show us anything new. Rice could be blamed for the soulful, brooding romantic vampires that eventually led to Edward Cullen and his "Twilight" ilk.

"Interview with the Vampire," "The Vampire Lestat" and "The Queen of the Damned" are among the best vampire books written in the 20th century and worth your time if you've never tasted their delights.

I wrote about "Let the Right One In" and its film adaptations yesterday.

I have to include the book on this list, though. It is an amazing tale of a boy and the vampire who changes his life.

It is also important to know that the English-speaking world does not have the final word on the vampire genre.

I have also recently expounded on the greatness of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend."  It is safe to say that there would be far fewer vampire novels published in the latter half of the 20th century if Matheson had not published this masterwork.

Dan Simmons has had something of a resurgence lately. His recent novels "The Terror" and "Drood" have allowed him to regain his proper place in literary horror.

Those books are great, but for me, Simmons best is still "Children of the Night" from 1993, is part of a group of novels with the character Michael O'Rouke. In this, O'Rourke is a Catholic priest investigating strange goings-on in Romania.

The novel, to the best of my recollection, was one of the first post-Communism horror novels to venture into Eastern Europe. It is essentially a book about how inhumane some people treat others. The Romanian landscapes are as vivid to me as the villages of the early Universal Studios horror movies.

What it isn't, is related to the piece of crap vampire movie of the same name which was released in 1985 and stars Karen Black. (Maybe I should have put that on my list of Worst Vampire Movies I've Ever Seen.)

We'll look at some other books a bit closer as Vampire Week continues. What is your favorite vampire novel?

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you on all of them except Children of the Night which I found rather mundane. Far too many descriptions of the Eastern European geography and scientific techno babble.