Friday, May 30, 2008

10 Greatest Vampire Novels of All Time!

Another list reprinted from the old site, with a couple of updates/changes.

I’m going to forego the usual lengthy explanation of why I enjoy these lists or what purpose they serve, and go straight to the disclaimers. This list reflects my personal preferences, and my personal reading experience. Therefore, if you are thinking, “How could this bastard have left off Bunnicula?” the answer is that I either haven’t read it or it just didn’t fit my tastes.
The major explanation with which I feel I should start is that I like my vampires to be the bad guys. The current trend of romantic fiction that presents the vampire as a melancholy object of desire perplexes me. They are animated corpses, people! Why would you want to have sex with that, and do you know what that makes you? End of rant, it’s your choice. (I will admit I read the Anita Blake series after a sort of dare from a friend, and found the early books to be pretty entertaining, before the series turned into bad porn)
There are hundreds of books with vampires as prominent characters in print, maybe thousands, and when I started the list, I thought it would be difficult to narrow the group down enough to make a top ten list. I was surprised to find there was a great deal of difficulty coming up with ten truly good books that fit this list. I’m surprised that so few of them have impressed me. Anyway, on with it.

1. Dracula, by Bram Stoker – The daddy of them all, it is responsible for most of the lore we associate with vampires, wooden stakes, garlic, silver and so on. One notable exception is that Stoker gave his vampires the ability to walk around in sunlight, just without some of their powers, a feature that most subsequent incarnations have ignored. If you haven’t read this, it is a much better book than you would imagine, and it is definitely worth your time. This has been filmed too many times to mention, although never completely satisfactorily.*
2. Salem’s Lot, by Steven King – I know I reversed the order from my previous list of horror novels, and it is true if I had to pick just one book on this list to take to that proverbial deserted island, it would be Salem’s Lot. But Dracula was such a strong inspiration on Stephen King in writing this, so much so that Dracula scores a few extra points. Salem’s Lot has been filmed as a mini-series twice, and both versions are better than expected.
3. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson – The first post-apocalyptic vampire novel, it is a science-fiction influenced, paranoid take on the genre. Filmed as The Last Man On Earth with Vincent Price (Not really all that bad, especially since the budget was $1.95) and The Omega Man with Charlton Heston (tried too hard to be hip and enlightened for my taste). A new version under the original name, with Will Smith, has been released.
4. Carrion Comfort, by Dan Simmons – The vampires in this one are the psychic type instead of blood-suckers, but it is a chilling presentation of evil.
5. The Stress Of Her Regard, by Tim Powers – The Romantic Poets, Byron, Keats and Shelley, battle vampires. No one but Tim Powers could pull this off, ut he does it so well you would believe vampires explain all the historical oddities associated with the three poets.
6. They Thirst, by Robert R. McCammon – I’ve mentioned I’m a McCammon fan. A little crude in places, but deserving of its place.
7. Live Girls, by Ray Garton – Vamps working as strippers and in peep shows. The relationship between strippers and patrons mirrors vampires and their victims, anyway.
8. The Traveling Vampire Show, by Richard Laymon – A vampire as a carny attraction. Laymon is always good.
9. Vampyrrhic, by Simon Clark – One of my favorite British authors, he ties his vampires into Norse mythology, believe it or not. Chilling.
10. This Is My Blood, by David Niall Wilson (also known as Temptation of Blood, a title I dislike) – Another favorite author, this would place higher (and has on other lists) if I didn’t consider it a more metaphysical book than a vampire novel. It features Mary Magdelene (you may have heard of her) as a vampire

* Did you know when the movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula was released, another writer did a novelization of the script? If you do, don’t you find it ironic?

There you have it. Any comments would be appreciated. Future lists on best single author collections, and (Cthuhlu help me) best short story are planned, so if I haven’t pissed you off yet, I’ll get there.


Craig Clarke said...

Did you know when the movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula was released, another writer did a novelization of the script? If you do, don’t you find it ironic?

I did know this, and I thought it was utterly ridiculous.

On a related note, Max Allan Collins, who wrote the graphic novel that Road to Perdition is based on, subsequently wrote the novelization of the script (by a different writer), incorporating all of the differences from his source material -- including giving one family a different surname. (That must have been confusing.)

KentAllard said...

There's something about the process that wigs me out. You put Stoker's name in the title, you do publicity claiming the movie is a faithful adaptation of the book, when you know it isn't, then instead of using the book itself as the tie-in, you do a novelization. It makes my head spin.

Craig Clarke said...

Especially since it would have been so much easier to just slap a tie-in cover on a public domain book. This way they had to pay a writer (not that I'm against paying writers)!