Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
So, you like vampires? Good news. The number of stories written about these creatures of the night is nearly infinite. However, quantity does not necessarily translate into quality. Sorting through this subgenre of horror can be a daunting task. Here are five vampire novels that don’t suck.
Dracula By Bram Stoker
Published in 1897, Stoker’s gothic fiction masterpiece follows the malevolent Count Dracula as he conspires to spread his undead curse to the streets of London and the heroic men and woman, led by Abraham Van Helsing, which seek to thwart him. Told entirely in the epistolary format, as a series of letters, diary entries, and ships’ logs, the story is delivered as a struggle of good versus evil, but is it? Many have noted anti-immigration and western imperial themes underlying the narrative to be the true horror conveyed in such a tale. The subtle and deliberate pacing with which the story is written can be difficult to digest, yet for those willing and brave enough to tackle it, Dracula stands as one of the greatest triumphs in horror literature.
I am Legend By Richard Matheson
I am Legend (1954) follows the rather ordinary Robert Neville as he struggles to survive under some extraordinary circumstances. The old world is gone having been laid waste by a great war and the vampire pandemic which followed in its footsteps. Neville must confront these monsters while coming to terms with the future which lies before him. Some historians have noted that the framework for the setting mirrors the First Great War and the subsequent Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918. Others have examined the tale in terms of growing old, technological change, and societal collapse. It is the measure by which all other post-apocalypse novels are compared.
Interview with the Vampire By Ann Rice
Between good and evil are various shades of gray. Ann Rice demonstrated this clearly in her 1976 novel, Interview with a Vampire. The tale follows the 200-year-long life story of the vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac. It is a story of loss and suffering beginning in the fetid swamps of New Orleans. Louis is by no means a hero, nor is he necessarily a villain. He is wary and tired of the immortality granted to him by another. In time, this leads to anger and hate, both directed towards his father, the vampire Lestat, and his own miserable existence. Sometimes living with your actions is the greatest punishment of all.
The Light at the End By John Skipp and Craig Spector
The Light at the End, by John Skipp and Craig Spector, is the book which defined splatterpunk. Written in 1986, the story follows the transformation and ultimate destruction of the street punk night crawler, Rudy Pasko. Absent are the romantic ideals of vampirism. Pasko doesn’t just kill. He rapes and mutilates his victims, forcing many to join his growing army of undead. Nothing is left to the reader’s imagination. The gore and sexual content is spelled out in vivid detail. Yet for all the nihilism and debauchery on display, there is always the hope of the light at the end.
Lost Souls By Poppy Z. Brite
No author captured the essence of goth culture of the early 1990s better than Poppy Z. Brite. Lost Souls (1992) combined the sultry decadence of Rice with the unabashed violence of Craig and Spector. In the tale, vampires are not transformed humans, but a breed apart from humanity. Nothing was born a vampire. Abandoned by his kind, Nothing is an outsider among the humans, but he is also a blank slate setting off to find out who he is and where he comes from. Nothing, as well as the humans and vampires he encounters, are the engine by which the author explores identity, the complexity of human relationships, and Brite’s own sexual ambiguity. It is a tale of how alienation and acceptance go hand in hand.