Monday, August 31, 2009


The 5 Best Vampire Books

This is a list of the five best vampire books according to The Fleam--these are the only books, so far, to have received a 5 star rating.

I am Legend -- Richard Matheson (horror)
* Short Review: Absolutely riveting post apocalypse SF style story, circa 1954. Not to be missed; one man, alone against a world full of vampires.
* My Advice: skip the movie.

Vampire: Two Centuries of Great Vampire Stories -- edited by Alan Ryan
* Short Review: THE collection to start with, containing all the best historical and early modern classics. A great read!

Blood is Not Enough -- edited by Ellen Datlow

Bloodlust -- PN Elrod

Guilty Pleasures -- Laurell K Hamilton

Sunday, August 16, 2009


This is an anthology by new e-publisher Ravenous Romance. I accepted a review copy based largely on the strength of Tan's reputation as an editor. As is often the case with anthologies, Boys of the Bite includes stories of mixed tone and quality.

Wanting Having Needing by R R Angell has excellent contemporary world building and a believable protagonist, but the plot--such as it is--depends on a twist that is broadcast well in advance.

To Be Beloved by Pepper Espinoza is a Dracula-esque historical story with a very appealing first-person protagonist. This story updates the Victorian approach by more strongly evoking the the morbid pleasures writers of that time could only elude to--as the victim sinking all to willingly into the the fatal embrace fo a vampire.This story is exquisitely well written but without the moralist ending that would once have resolved the tale it feels rather unfinished.

Lost in Translation by Tammy Jo Eckhart is well written but essentially just a story of a modern surfer becoming the slave of a vampire scholar, which is not the sort of story I enjoy.

The Love of a Faithful Servant by Teresa Noelle Roberts is again wonderfully written but basically a 'being made into a vamp' story. At this point I am beginning to wonder why so many authors write a wonderful vignette and so few produce a fully plotted (beginning-middle-end) short story.

The Cold Color of the Heart by Eric Del Carlo and Amber Jane Dodd is a emo first love story with a well-imagined vampiric twist.

The Sin Eater's Prince by Keta Diablo is another first time story combined with strong high fantasy world building.

The Conservative Dark by Connor McKay is yet another first time story with the standard OMG-what-if-I-hurt-my-mortal-lover plot.

The Last Brother by Ken Panadero describes a high fantasy order of vampire monks, but is also yet another falling in love story. I support this is a romance publisher, but in the absence of other plots the stories are starting to feel monotonous. Each is in a different world, a different culture, a different kind of vampire, a different kind of man, and a different writing style, and yet.... it is not just that each story is a vampire and a human, but the human is a nervous virgin etc. Perhaps I am too demanding having been raised on classic collections of sci fi short stories which each made a different kind of conceptual point rather than the same basic point ('love redeems') in different ways.

The Devil's Half Acre by Ryan Field introduces a world weary vampire moving into a town, segues to a pick up and sex scene and then ends. Of all those stories it has some of the best erotic content but is the furthest from really being a fully realised story.

VAMMP: Conquerring Dissension by Bryl R Tyne was a story I found very hard to follow and make sense of. The editing also seemed a little off; there were many awkwardly constructed sentences. For example: "Alan sensed the scrutiny tossed at his still-booted feet and warmth flushed his face." And only in this story did the intricate world building seem really rather supernumerary to the plot of (surprise surprise) lust and longing finally requited (the ol' destined life mates thang).

Based on her previous anthologies I know Tan knows good writing when she sees it. However I think the last story ends this collection on a low note. The world building the writing style of each writer is excellent and idiosyncratic, but the old vampire and M/M tropes become repetitious by the end. It might be best read in snatches rather than in one sitting. A reader who has read these two genres less exhaustively might not feel the same ennui.

Overall I would rate Boys of the Bite well worth the price of entry, and a nice sampler of gay erotic romance stories that put a twist in the old tropes but never escapes or subverts them. I would certainly be interested in reading longer works by most of the authors included in this collection.


See also:
BOYS OF THE BITE Receives Great Review From the Fleam

Thursday, August 13, 2009

THE VAMPIRE FAMILY Kristin Battestella

The Vampire Familyopens with 50 pages of rapid fire royal melodrama. The evil Antonio emerges from harsh poverty and by cunning and blithe murder takes a throne. An awful lot more than that happens, and lacking a pause to appreciate the impact of all this rape, murder, torture and betrayal--and lacking a sympathetic protagonist or a point-of-view character, I have to admit is passed as rather a blur with Antonio somehow both the hero and the villain of the piece.

Around page fifty the story leaps nine centuries into the future, but still lands thirty some years short of the present day. Surrounded by the female vampires created in the first part of the story (his family in more ways than one) Antonio now has plans for world domination. The time period bounces around rather a lot from there with an ongoing blur of action involving Antonio, his women and various secondary characters.

Somewhere in the middle of the murders, dungeons, zombies, torture and a cast of scores I realised I just could not get interested in this story. The Vampire Family has an authentic air of the old vampire tales like Varney the Vampire or even Dracula, but as a modern reader I find I want a character to root for, and some insight into his thoughts and feelings. And that is one thing this book doesn't have. Others may enjoy the convoluted family and their exciting lives, but this just wasn't my kind of book.