5th Jul 2010
My Three Favourite…Vampire Novels
Thanks to Stephanie Meyer, the presence of vampires in fiction (teen fiction especially) has seen something of a surge in the last few years. You can’t move in the Fantasy aisle of a bookshop or take the tube at rush hour without bumping into the gloomy font and black cover that seems to characterise vampire novels. But I’m not complaining; morbid adolescent that I was, I’ve long been a fan of that genre. Vampires are fascinating beings with compelling personalities and an excellent excuse for sex scenes. What’s not to love?
But with Twilight fever taking over (cheers, Hollywood), it’s easy to forget that not all vampire fiction is so heavy on the hormonal teens. Vampires appear in pretty much every genre of fiction, from historical to sci-fi and good old-fashioned gothic horror. And as much as I love him, most are a damn sight more exciting than Edward Cullen. My three favourite vampire novels prove that the catalogue of horror fiction isn’t complete without a bloodsucker or two.
Now better known as the TV series True Blood, the ten books follow beautiful young barmaid Sookie in her home town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. She’s an ordinary girl living (yep, you guessed it) an ordinary life but that changes when she meets the swoonsome vampire Bill Compton and his supernatural cohorts, who are fascinated by her ability to read minds. Suddenly Sookie’s life isn’t so dull.
Though The Sookie Stackhouse Novels are filed under the Paranormal Romance genre, it’s action and a good ol’ fashioned murder mystery that’s at the heart of each story. Yes there’s a love plot but, unlike Twilight, the novels don’t revolve around a fairytale relationship and declarations of eternal love. Supernatural shenanigans aside, Bill and Sookie are actually no different to your average couple. And that’s what makes the novels so absorbing. Harris manages to blend the extraordinary seamlessly into Sookie’s very ordinary life; her vampire boyfriend might swing by the bar that she works at for a glass of synthetic blood, and it’s completely normal. Now isn’t that a world you’d like to live in?
Predictable maybe, but I couldn’t write about vampire novels without acknowledging the massive influence that Bram Stoker’s most successful book has had on all things vampire-related. 103 years later and the protagonist of this book is very much a household name. Who hasn’t heard of Count Dracula? And there’s a reason for that – he’s the vampire upon which all other vampires are based.
Keeping that in mind, don’t expect anything revolutionary from this story. The Count is suave, lethal and fatally attractive to women and the story moves from Transylvanian castles to moonlit forests and lunatic asylums. Victorian much? And that’s not the only old-fashioned thing about Dracula; Stoker’s progressiveness leaves much to be desired, with the female characters being either weak and virginal mortals or wanton and lustful vampires. Whilst the male characters are able to resist the influences of the Count, the mortal women are easily dominated and used in his dastardly plans. The typical Victorian sensibilities of the novel might make it frustrating for modern readers but look past that and you’ll enjoy one of the best horror stories ever written.
Anyone doubting the influence of The Twilight Saga on teen fiction need only read Blood Sinister. This teen novel was published in 1996 – pre-Twilight and therefore a few years before vampire romance became so popular. Consequently there’s no vampire love interest, no devastatingly beautiful beings and no moral side to these vampires – they’re villainous and evil to the core.
Young Ellen Forrest is suffering from a mystery illness that leaves her lethargic and low on blood. Whilst convalescing at her grandma’s home in Highgate, North London (conveniently close to a certain cemetery), she discovers a trunk full of diaries belonging to her great-great-grandmother and finds that reading them is a perfect way to pass the time. In the leather-bound pages of the diaries, Ellen discovers the charming and mysterious Count her great-great-grandmother met and the brutally-murdered bodies littering the streets of Victorian London. As Ellen delves deeper, a more immediate danger begins to creep into her life. What are the odds of the two being linked?
The story alternates skilfully between Victorian London and the modern day, with Rees perfectly capturing the voice of a young Victorian lady and modern day adolescent. It’s not the most perfectly-written book in the world; some of the characters are under-developed and it ends with a ‘group of teens saving the day’ scenario that seems clichéd. But it’s saving grace is the fact that it’ll have you hooked from the first page.
Post by Alex Sheppard