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Everything Alyce: 'Vampires: The Recent Undead' anthology

Friday, 11 March 2016

'Vampires: The Recent Undead' anthology

*This review will contain spoilers!*

It's been a very long time since I've read anything featuring vampires, and I have always loved short story anthologies, so I thought this was going to be a brilliant book. Alas, I ended up feeling very apathetic regarding most of the stories, and only loved a handful of them - because this was compiled in 2011 but a lot of the stories are a lot older, it feels seriously dated. It's also chock-a-block with editing errors, which makes me think it was churned out without much thought going into it: in three of the stories, the characters names are used incorrectly (e.g. Matilda being called Melinda). Based off of the content of the stories, I was going to make this a three star review, but with those issues that would have just been too high.

I'm going to put all of the star ratings I gave the individual short stories below, and give a couple of sentences based on why - I'm not going in depth on this one, though.

'The Coldest Girl In Cold Town' by Holly Black - (5/5): a short story set before the events of Holly's novel of the same name, the only reason I liked this one was because I was already familiar with the concept of Coldtowns. If this had been my first experience, it would have been a lot lower, as things weren't explained very well at all.

'This Is Now' by Michael Marshall Smith - (4/5): a trio of guys get drunk and reminisce on childhood adventures. A sweet (but terrifying) tale. 

'Sisters' by Charles de Lint - (3/5): one of the sisters gets turned, wants to turn the other, she refuses... Then promptly changes her mind. Teenage angst galore. 

'The Screaming' by J. A. Konrath - (3/5): the last vampire has been chained up in a basement for years. Our heroin addict protagonist injects himself with vampire blood and goes on a killing spree - everyone dies at the end. Standard.

'Zen and the Art of Vampirism' by Kelley Armstrong - (5/5): the only vampire in Canada nearly gets kicked out by the newbies in town - she hilariously tricks them with a little help from her friends.

'La Vampiresse' by Tanith Lee - (4/5): movie actress who played a vampire believes she is the vampire she portrayed on screen. Clever, especially as it's told through an interview with a young reporter. 

'Dead Man Stalking' by Rachel Caine - (4/5): I've never read the Morganville vampires series, but this is interesting enough - the protagonist's father creates zombies to take down the vampires. 

'The Ghost of Leadville' by Jeanne C. Stein - (2/5): a vampire prostitute sleeps with a stranger, falls madly in love with him, and is really offended when he doesn't return to her so that they can spend eternity together. Very anti-feminist: women can have sex without needing commitment, so this is eye-rolls galore.

'Waste Land' by Stephen Dedman - (3/5): very, very short story - the death of a vampire hunter. Wasted potential, because there were a lot of possibilities that could have been included, however I did like the individual characteristics listed for the vampires of different countries and nationalities. 

'A Gentleman of the Old School' by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro - (1/5): boring. Young reporter solves a murder spree with the help of an old gentleman (aka vampire).

'No Matter Where You Go' by Tanya Huff - (1/5): somehow a teenage girl opens a portal to another dimension, where there are spooky monsters galore. Nothing is really explained, it's very melodramatic and it really irritated me. 

'Outfangthief' by Conrad Williams - (1/5): if I could give this one 0 stars, I would. Creepy paedophile chases down a mother and her daughter, and reading this one actually made me feel physically sick. Unnecessary.

'Dancing With The Star' by Susan Sizemore - (1/5): instalove strikes again. Vampire girl dreams of a man dancing with her, before realising the same man is in a coma in the hospital. She just must turn him so they can be together... Forever... Groan.

'A Trick of the Dark' by Tina Rath - (4/5): a diseased girl tempts a vampire into turning her, leaving her restrictive life behind. Good portrayal of the desperation of being bedridden. 

'When Gretchen Was Human' by Mary A. Turzillo - (4/5): when your daughter has cancer, a great thing to do is turn into a vampire and turn her. There's a good amount of instalove/fate/destiny in this one too, but it doesn't end up working out which is more realistic.

'Conquistador de la Noche' by Carrie Vaughn - (4/5): a very religious man gets turned into a vampire, and because his faith persists he's able to overcome his feeding impulses and his aversion to prayers and holy water. A lot of this is just walking backwards and forwards, so it does drag.

'Endless Night' by Babara Roden - (5/5): an old woman reads her grandfather's journal, reminiscing over his trip to Antarctica. Lovely premise, beautifully written, and the journal entries do not drag so the pace is kept up.

'Dahlia Underground' by Charlaine Harris - (4/5): apparently Dahlia has popped up in the Sookieverse (which is the name for any books set in the world of Sookie Stackhouse... Shudder) before, but I've never encountered her. I got a bit confused with the anti-vampire militia, so I feel as though this one would have appealed more if I knew the world a bit better.

'The Belated Burial' by Caitlin R. Kiernan - (3/5): girl gets buried alive. Very, very short.

'Twilight States' by Albert Cowdrey - (2/5): a young boy impersonates his brother to go to a psychiatrist, then kills his brother when he finds out. He then kills the psychiatrist too. This is supposedly about vampires, but the wild boars eat the people and the main character complains about the representation of vampires... It's all very confusing, and obviously trying (too hard) to be clever. 

'To The Moment' by Nissi Shawl - (4/5): pregnant vampire sucks a man dry of his blood by having sex with him, then decides she doesn't want to go on a cruise anymore. A bit of fun. 

'Castle In The Desert: Anno Dracula 1977' by Kim Newman - (3/5): a PI has to track down his ex-wife's child, but she's already turned into a vampire when he gets there. He counts this as solving the case and saving the girl, so he retires. Yawn.

'Vampires In The Lemon Grove' by Karen Russell - (5/5): seeing a married vampire couple living in a lemon grove in Italy is so ridiculous I couldn't help but love it. The ending was bittersweet (haha, lemon joke) but the writing was lovely, as were the flashbacks to the early days of their relationship.

'Vampires Anonymous' by Nancy Kilpatrick - (1/5): feels more like a short story for children. Visitors to an online forum drop off of the face of the earth when their likenesses are mentioned in blog posts written by famous vampires (eg. Lord Byron). Sounds like the kind of thing that would happen in improv class in drama, and should probably be left there.

'The Wide, Carnivorous Sky' by John Langan - (3/5): saving the longest till last (nearly 50 pages) this one drags on quite a bit, and is extremely farfetched. The vampire is an eight-foot vampire from space, who lives in a coffin orbiting the planet - yeah, it's very weird. But it focuses on men who are attacked by this vampire - the Shadow - when they're at war, so there are some beautiful descriptions of the trauma of PTSD and the struggles of rehab. 

Overall, I really wouldn't recommend this anthology. I mean, sure, pick through and read a couple of the short stories, but don't bother reading it from cover to cover. I'm so sick of vampires now, I don't think I want to read another vampire story as long as I live - or at least not for the next few months. 

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