Monday, April 27, 2009

Book Binge, Part I: the Vamps

Thanks to a childhood viewing of a vampire movie at the public library, my own personal bogeyman under the bed was a vampire.

You know, that scary thing lurking just below the bed, waiting to grab you by the ankles after you turn out the light? That thing that inspires your kid-self to take a flying leap onto the bed from halfway across the room? Yeah, that one. So maybe that goes a little way to explaining my interest in vampire books.

Love 'em or hate 'em, they're everywhere in popular fiction right now, thanks in part to the huge commercial success of Twilight. Enough so that it's hard to sort out the junk from the worthwhile.

Vampire Garden poster, Madame Talbot's

If you like your vamps with actual fangs, then Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, starting with Dead Until Dark, is good. And HBO's, um, loosely-inspired True Blood series is very good. In the series, Sookie is a human telepath living in rural Louisiana, who comes to the aid of new neighbor, vampire Bill one night. Thanks to that encounter, she becomes more and more involved with different members of the supernatural community. The downside for this reader is that she generally gets the shit beaten out of her a few too many times for my taste. Beyond her ability to read minds, Sookie is pretty much just like everyone else; no superhuman senses, no extra strength. As a result, she gets the worse end of lots of encounters with the supernaturals. A part of Sookie's charm as the series progresses, is that she manages to hold on to her own moral compass even as she loses some of her earlier naivete and innocence.

Jeaniene Frost levels out the playing field a bit more with her Halfway to the Grave series. Cat Crawfield is a rare half-vampire, with some big ol' daddy issues. Her mom has raised her to hate all vampires, and Cat is on a self-destructive mission to kill 'em all. You just know that plan is going to hell, right? Cat is one smart-mouthed badass, and her vampire-killing cohort, Bones, is equally chilling - and funny.

Dracula poster, Madame Talbot's

Third up on the recommendation list is a much dicier proposition: JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series, starting with Dark Lover.

Dicey because these books are campy. The titles are silly. The female leads devolve into complete Mary Sues, at some point after the Magic HooHoo encounter (here and here). And the spelling, dear God: unnecessary use of H's as far as the eye can see - it gets rhidiculous.

But you know what? They are also a blast to read; even the Smart Bitches think so - sort of. Dark Lover kicks off the series with Wrath, the last purebred vampire on the planet, and leader of a warrior brotherhood. Um, yeah. So anyway, Wrath has been entrusted to watch over the half-breed daughter of his best friend, all while he and his brothers-in-arms fight their mortal enemies, the evil Lessening Society. Lots of broody vampire manliness, sticky sex scenes, and evil ass-kicking ensue. I can't wait to pick of the newest installment in the series, which comes out this week.

And as for vampire-to-vampire comparisons, any of the above vamps and vamp hunters would be fully capable of tying Edward Cullen in a knot, and stomp on his little emo heart.

And if you still can't get enough of the bloodsuckers, check out the Victorian-themed posters at Madame Talbot's.

No comments: