Sunday, October 20, 2013

Vampires: Romance to Rippers; an Anthology of Tasty Stories Volume 1 – review

First Published: 2013

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Vampires!

Sixteen authors give you a glimpse into the dark worlds of lost love, murderous rage, and undeniable sex appeal where deadly quests and blood lust spanning centuries of time reign supreme.

Explore some of the most unique vampires to exist on this side of the grave. Essays, excerpts, and short stories from award winning authors Karen Dales, Kurt Kamm, Bertena Varney and more. They will entertain you, thrill you, and bewilder you as they reveal the dark secrets of the most beloved creatures of the night, including eleven times bestselling author Terri Reid creator of the Mary O’Reilly Series.

So, which will it be: the romantic vampire, the revenant vampire, the elemental, the fanged vampire, or the mythological female vampire? Begin reading and find out!

The Review: Anthologies are a strange beast. In many respects we have grown past the anthology subject being simply “vampires” but, because of the breadth of the genre, we have now a market for anthologies that look at an aspect of vampirism.

Vampires: Romance to Rippers tries to step beyond this by presenting vampire stories from a spectrum, from the romantic to the violent, and this is an interesting take. However just the spectrum choice might leave some readers cold at one end of the spectrum and others cold at the opposite end – though it may also serve to broaden the tastes and experience of other readers.

What left me, personally, slightly cold was the inclusion of a lot of excerpts from larger works. Don’t get me wrong, I have submitted an excerpt for publication myself, before now, and in this volume there was one particularly excellent one I’d like to point out later in the review. However, the trouble with excerpts is that you often feel that you are in a larger story (which, of course you are) and so you get less of the self-contained exciting vignette that, to me, showcases the skill of the short story writer. However, this anthology contains some well received stories (by me) but also some poorer ones and I will touch on one or two of each.

Unfortunately the anthology began with probably the two stories that left me coldest. Karen Dales The Guest had the interesting setting of a Buddhist temple but really did feel like it was just a smaller part of a greater whole. The story seemed to want to build a mood rather than tell an interesting tale and, on a personal taste level, I didn’t like her prose.

This was followed by two pieces by Elita Daniels. Her essay about why she enjoys reading and writing about vampires was, I felt, out of place and – frankly – somewhat patronising as she kept repeating phrases such as “what’s not to love” and “who wouldn’t want a piece.” It felt like I was being told why I should like vampires, rather than her explaining why she did, and the essay had a feel of a blog article more than anything. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with the prose in her excerpt from her Guardian series, but it was probably at the most romantic end of the spectrum and her vampires were (almost literally) defanged – a strange move from someone who enjoys writing about vampires to try and make them as human normal as possible. There was mention of institutions that newly turned vampires were taken to, though I do not know if her series expands on this as a focal piece. I feel she has a whole story there, a story of despair and pain set within that small stage, with the vampire as the victim, without the paranormal romance stuff getting in the way.

On the other side of the coin the excerpt by Kurt Kamm from his Code Blood was stunning and is the excerpt I mentioned earlier. Excellent prose introduced a (not supernatural) character who was disturbing and fascinating at the same time. Markus is an albino with a love of the macabre and, as we meet him, he has just made off with a woman’s severed foot from the scene of an accident. The excerpt was so good that I stopped reading (I was on a train at the time) whipped out my smart phone and ordered the full novel.

I was very taken with BellaDonna Drakul’s “Forgotten immortal”, a tale in which hallucinatory narcotics leads Benedikt Emory on a quest to resurrect a dead vampire, whose essence has spoken to him during a vivid trip. The story was neatly self-contained, had the kick in the tale that gives a short purpose and the evocative prose painted a German Expressionist landscape in my imagination.

Touched the Sun was another excerpt, this time by Laura Enright. Though an excerpt, her full book – To Touch the Sun – takes place in modern Chicago (so her author’s note informed). This is a flashback to a turning and is set in the trenches of the First World War. The setting was nice, not totally unique as it is a setting that Baltimore extensively used, but if there was some familiarity in the setting and the imagery of the vampires scavenging across No Man’s Land, that was where it ended and this was its own beast. I liked the idea of the mix of feral and sentient vampires in this.

So, all in all, a pleasing enough anthology the perhaps straddles a spectrum a little too broad in such a vast genre. I would perhaps have fewer excerpts and there are, as mentioned, a couple of entries that are weaker than others (though that has much to do with taste). However it is certainly worth your time. 6.5 out of 10.


Literally Laura said...

Hi, I wanted to say thanks for the nice comments on my piece "Touch the Sun" which appeared in Vampires: Romance to Rippers. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I think WWI is a ripe backdrop for that sort of thing. I believe Mitchell in "Being Human" was also turned during WWI. I'm fascinated by that war. All wars are crazy, but that seemed especially so, both the start of it and the execution of it. No Man's Land seemed a perfect place to find feasting feral vampires. :) Thanks again.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Laura, thanks for the comment

Mitchel was turned in WW1 indeed... If you read Baltimore, that I mentioned, it was the imagery of the feeding in No Man's Land that sparked the comparison but only on a surface level, your piece is a different beast altogether.

I agree that WW1 seems especially crazed, the biggest pity being that the war to end all wars didn't end all wars.