Sunday, 23 August 2015

Sunday August 23rd, 2015 Vampires

Vampires. These blood-sucking monsters have captured our imaginations for years. But in modern times, many of the vampires we read about tend to be friendly. Stephenie Meyer gave us sparkling vampires. In urban fantasy, there are lots of brooding anti-heroes. And in romance, it’s vampire-lovers. While vampire mythology tends to suggest some of these things (maybe not the sparkling), modern stories sometimes overlook the fact that vampires are dangerous predators. So here’s a look at books that remind us of this fact.

The best place to start is of course Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Stoker is credited with giving us the modern form of the vampire with his gentlemanly mannerisms. And while Count Dracula is incredibly charming, make no mistake: he is a monster who wants to spread the curse of undeath. And spread the curse he did: Dracula greatly influenced the horror genre, paving the way for more contemporary authors like Stephen King to write Salem’s Lot. And in typical King style, the vampire isn’t the only monster in his small town setting; Salem’s Lot shows us the darkness that is hidden inside us all.

Thinking of monsters, David Wellington’s 13 Bullets has state trooper Laura Caxton and FBI agent Jameson Arkeley take on the undead. In the 80’s, Arkeley stopped a vampire rampage, killing all but one of them, who has been left in an asylum to rot. But 20 years later there is another attack, and Arkeley realizes the last vampire has found a way to spread her curse. And for some reason, the vampire wants Caxton. Be aware, while 13 Bullets is a great thriller, it is not for the faint of heart; the vampires often leave only gruesome remains of their victims.

Speaking of gruesome remains, in graphic novels we have Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night series. This is the story of Barrow, Alaska being overrun by Vampires. During Barrow’s winter, there is no sunlight for one month. It’s also an isolated community, making it an ideal place for vampires to have a feeding frenzy.

Robin McKinley’s Sunshine also makes a point of reminding us time and time again of how dangerous vampires are. In this book, humans know on an instinctive level that vampires are dangerous; when they smell them, their bodies immediately go into fight-or-flight mode. Of course, by then it’s often too late to escape. All of that goes through Sunshine’s mind when she gets attacked by vampires at the lake, a spot which should have been safe. Sure, she manages to find a vampire who is different from the others. But even he repeatedly warns her to stay away.

Moving away from Stoker’s version of vampiricism, there’s also a version where vampiricism is a disease or virus, which is what Richard Matheson used in I Am Legend. Matheson’s story is about the last surviving human in a world overrun by vampires; Robert Neville is immune to the virus, which makes him a very attractive target for a world of blood-sucking monsters. Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain also uses this virus idea. In del Toro’s story, a Boeing 777 mysteriously goes dead on the tarmac. The investigators find that everyone on board is dead. Or at least they should be; three people originally declared dead have somehow survived. When one of the survivors threatens legal action, the three are released, allowing them to spread the infection. The vampires in The Strain have been compared to the Reapers in Blade 2, so be prepared for nearly unstoppable monsters!

Both new and old, these seven books do an excellent job of reminding us of how terrifying vampires really are. To find these and more, stop by your nearest Thunder Bay Public Library branch!

Shauna Kosoris 

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