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SA Partridge

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Toothy Treats


As much as I love a good vampire novel, it’s become a tired genre. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve picked up a book about vampires, vampire hunters and my personal pet-hate, girl-meets-boy-who-turns-out-to-be-a-vampire, and putting it back faster than you can say Twilight.

It’s so rare when a vampire novel can truly grab your attention and make you forget about the clichés set by Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.

In the spirit of All-Hallows-Eve, here are some vampire stories that have bitten away at the old cliché that I have enjoyed over the years.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

dead-until-dark.jpgIf anyone is familiar with the True Blood series that just began airing in America, this is the surprising little book that inspired it. Its book one of the Sookie Stackhouse Mystery series about an uneducated Southern waitress that takes up the cause of the downtrodden vampire in the American South. It is phenomenally good and anyone who enjoyed Anne Rice’s descriptions of New Orleans would adore Harris’s, who does it just as well. It’s boy meets girl, but oh so juicy.

Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

carpe-jugulum.JPGThis is a Discworld novel (the 23rd in fact) but anyone not familiar with the series would get no less enjoyment out of the book. The Lancre witches – Nanny Ogg, Granny Weatherwax and Agnes Nitt have to rescue their old friend and ex-coven member Magrat Garlick and her kingdom from the Magpyrs, a family of vampires from Uberwald who don’t want to go home. The wit is as sharp as coffin nails and the pace is as fast as a bat out of hell.

Quote –

There are many kinds of vampires. Indeed, it is said that there are as many kinds of vampires as there are types of disease.*

*Which presumably means that some are virulent and deadly, and others just make you walk in a funny way and avoid fruit.

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

night-watch.jpgTwo things about this book – it’s set in Russia and it’s translated from the Russian. Thirdly, it’s just brilliant. I can’t sing this book’s praises enough. Basically there are two worlds that exist parallel to ours, a world of darkness and a world of light. The Night Watch police the creatures of the night and the Day Watch police the creatures of light. This book is part of a trilogy and reads like a fairy tale even though it’s set in modern day Moscow and is filled with lots of witches and vampires and all sorts of interesting new takes on old ideas. It’s amazing.

30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith

30-days-of-night.jpgThis is a three-issue graphic novel about a town in Alaska called Barrow where in winter the sun doesn’t rise for thirty days after it sets. It is during this time that a group of vampires invade the town and begin devouring the townspeople. The artwork is extremely graphic but hauntingly beautiful at the same time. If you have the stomach for extreme graphic horror, check it out.

The Night World Series by L.J Smith

night-world.JPGThe Night World is an ongoing young adult series that to-date comprises about nine novels. L.J Smith has taken an incredibly cliché theme, that of human meets undead soul mate, and has turned it into something beautiful. To be honest she’s really used every cliché there is to play with, girl meets boy, the hatred between vampires and werewolves, vampire slayers; but she somehow manages to get away with it by creating novels that you can really sink your teeth into. I’ve read a few more than once and I’m twenty-six.

Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire by Neil Gaiman

exotic-gothic.jpgI won’t hesitate to say that this is one of the finest short stories I’ve read. Neil Gaiman has written in the same pace as the poem The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe and has expertly used vocabulary that rhymes with words used in the poem to create a similar impression. I was so impressed at the skill and ease in which this was done that the twist at the end was completely unexpected and an utter delight.

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

salems-lot.jpgI usually include this book in all of my favourite lists because I have a soft spot for Stephen King and also he did it so well. It was his second published novel so this is true vintage King. Author Ben Mears wants to buy the old Marsten House but vampires move in first. Soon the whole town is infected. It’s up to Ben and teenage survivor Mark Petrie to kill the vamps and save the town, if they can. I plan to read it for the fourth time this December just for the hell of it.

I didn’t include any classics like Poe or Polidori or even Rice’s Vampire Chronicles in the list because those have essentially become classics themselves. This is relatively new fiction (with the exception of maybe King)

Happy Halloween everyone!


Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    October 31st, 2008 @09:37 #

    Bleugh! Bleugh! Happy Halloween to you too!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    October 31st, 2008 @10:37 #

    Nice list, Sally.

    May I add Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite and The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas?

    The former is dirty, subversive and amoral; the latter is an erudite feminist reinscription of the genre. None of this namby-pamby soap opera that passes for 'bit-lit' these days.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sarah Lotz</a>
    Sarah Lotz
    October 31st, 2008 @11:03 #

    My all time fave bit-lit (awesome phrase) novel is I Am Legend by Richard Matheson which is more about paranoia than blood sucking fiends. I was furious when I saw how the premise was butchered in the latest Will Smith film 'adaptation'. They screwed it up royally. The point of the novel is that the main character, the last human on an earth populated by vampires, is the anomaly - NOT the vampires. Which is how it should be. Humans are far more disturbing and evil on the whole.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    October 31st, 2008 @11:21 #

    I forgot all about I am Legend. *blush*


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