Archive for top vampire books
I had the pleasure of meeting with Don Barant, otherwise known in the fantasy book world as DD Barant, at the recent fantasy-themed convention here in Vancouver Canada- FanExpo. For a guy who writes vampire books, as well as often about werewolves and other dark denizens of the night (had to put a Batman phrase in there, just for Don) he is a person who is open and friendly when it comes to chatting at conventions about the world of fantasy and books in general.
One of things Don and I have in common is a love of the world of comic books. I got mine from working as a writer and publisher for over twenty years in that field and Don got his from reading and enjoying them. It shows in one of the books in his Bloodhound Files series, Death Blows. I am chortling as I read it this week and had to share with you some of the highlights of the book.
For those unfamiliar with the Don’s vampire books series, The Bloodhound Files is wonderful mix of mystery detective storytelling with lots of great fantasy images thrown in just for fun. In fact, Don writes in just about every genre you can name, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he decided to combine two of his favorite genres into one vampire books story.
The main character in this vampire books set is Jace, and she is a tough-ass FBI profiler who is pulled into an alternate world where humans are outnumbered by vampires (called pires) and werewolves (called thropes) by about 9-1. Ya, well, when they live forever and tend to chomp on humans, I guess that wouldn’t take too long to happen. In this world they have been around for a couple hundred years at least, so that tells you just how successful they have become.
Jace is here because they need her to help them out on a serial murder case. This one is special because the killer is human, and he is after vampires and werewolves. Oh- and he is crazy. The National Security Agency of the Unnatural States of America (ya- that is a mouthful!) keeps her here to help with her specialty, the tracking down of “mentally-fractured killers”. The original deal was she would help with this one case and then be sent back, but her ability to find the mentally unstable criminal, something that is almost unheard of here, keeps her firmly on this side of the universe.
Still on the trail, she is brought into the crime scene where a pire has been killed, in a superhero costume. Soon she is unraveling the clues left behind that all point to a comic book connection in a world where comic books were banned for their magic ability in the 1950s. Now this is where Don really shines, because he pulls out all the stops and brings in his knowledge of comic book history, his love of the medium and just a few comic book celebrities who make some fun guest appearances. He weaves in the comic book stuff without letting it detract from the flow of the story, as Jace is soon standing down thropes and trying to understand just exactly who this criminal mind could be that is so twisted he can leave a corpse in a Flash costume with an electrical current running through it that leaves very little of the body to investigate.
Of course, the bodies begin to pile up, and soon it becomes obvious that Jace has some decisions to make about her loyalties and how much she is willing to do to get back to her own world. I don’t want to say too much, I hate to give anything away, but let’s just say that some folks that appear to be allies turn out to be something very different.
But since this is a site about all things vampires and vampire books – let me tell you a bit more about “the pires” in this world. Don has done some interesting things to the concept of vampires here in his recent vampire books series, beginning with the notion that back in the 1940s in this alternate world, they traded a mass sacrifice of the humans for the ability to reproduce. This is what gives them their edge, and why humans are such a minority in this world, well that and the math I mentioned earlier.
So here they are the ones with all the power. Golems have been created to be the worker bees, and humans are such a small minority that they aren’t even worth considering in the scheme of things. I love that pires refer to humans without magical powers (which most humans have here, they had to just to survive) as ORs or “original recipe”, referring to the old habits of making them into blood snacks.
With humans down to that measly 1%, this leaves thropes (as in werewolves are lycanthropes) and pires the ones with the ability to make things happen, which they do. In fact, Jace’s boss at the National Security Agency (NSA) is a vampire by the name of David Cassius who is young, good looking and somehow reminds me of the old sixties heartthrob David Cassidy (but that is just a coincidence, right Don?)
All in all, The Bloodhound Files vampire books series is a fun and very different vampire books series for us vampire fans. One of things I really found amazing is how well Don writes from a female point of view. I have found this to be rare in most genre fiction and can usually spot a guy writing with a female main character a mile away. Not so with this series and in fact before I met Don I wasn’t sure if “DD” was a guy or gal.
If you have never dipped your toe into the vampire books series, you might want to begin with the first book, Dying Bites. This is where Jace first comes to this world and it introduces you to the pires and thropes that make up her world and her new case. Death Blows is the second book, and I will say that you don’t need to have read the first one to enjoy it. But heck, why limit yourself? And if you love these two, Killing Rocks and Better off Undead follow with Back from the Undead just released last month. All with those killer vampires, and the wry DD Barant humor that makes me keep coming back for more.
Tim Powers has to be one of my favorite writers when it comes to someone who can handle genre fiction to give it a real literary quality. This time around he is delivering a book I would say is among the top vampire books I have seen in a while. The man can write, and his biggest strength, which shows up in spades in Hide Me Among the Graves, is his characters. Here is a guy that truly understands that you can have the coolest plot concept in the world, but if you can’t create characters that resonate with your readers, the plot is all ashes in your mouth.
Tim has no problems with these characters. If you know your vampire book history, you know that one of the earliest of the modern vampire tales was “The Vampyre” written in 1819 by John Pollidori. It is pretty much the grandfather of the modern vampire story. In Hide Me Among the Graves, Powers has created a powerful tale of supernatural revenge with Pollidori, dead by his own hand and now a vampire ghost, as the main character.
Pollidori haunts his niece, the famed poet Christina Rosetti as well as her brother Dante and they in turn use him for their literary inspiration. But Pollidori has grander plans, which involve the destruction of England. However, before he can focus on that he has a small matter of revenge on his ex-lover and her new husband’s daughter. When the would be victim’s decide to enlist the help of author Edward John Trawley, a wondrously cranky character here, as well as Pollidori’s relatives to stop him – the battle is on!
This is awesome storytelling and truly one of the top vampire books coming out this spring or possibly this year. Yes, it is a bit over the top, but then when you have vampire ghosts destroying Victorian England you just can’t help yourself. Do yourself a favor and check this one out yourself. You will be so glad that you did. Hide Me Among the Graves is Tim Powers at his best, and that is saying a lot.
What could be better than more stories featuring our favorite vampire fan – Sookie Stackhouse! Sure, we have all read the original series and loved it, watched the television show and are now impatiently awaiting the return of the show for its fifth season. But did you know there are stories about Sookie out there that are not part of the regular series? Did you know there are Sookie Stackhouse stories plotted by Alan Ball and written by some great writers who know a thing or two about fangs?
Well it is true and we have two volumes of untold stories from the denizens of Bon Temps just here for your pleasure, as they certainly have been mine. They are called True Blood: All Together Now and True Blood: Tainted Love. You just know Alan Ball must have come up with those titles, they are such a great reflection of the puns of numerous song titles as episode titles he has had for the show.
In addition, I have unearthed a little fun book for all true blue fans,The Fangbangers Guide. I thought it would be a fun book to have along with Charlaine’s recent companion book A Touch of Dead that I reviewed earlier. And finally- an interesting take on our gal Sookie and all her friends in William Irwin’s True Blood and Philosophy. It has always hit me that True Blood has a lot to say beyond just the fangs – and this is a great look at some concepts that even Anne Rice has said drew her to the world of Bon Temps where vampires live and kill in the open.
This is part of an ongoing series that explores aspects of pop culture through the lens of philosophy and social structures. Sounds heavy but actually it is really interesting reading. He takes a look at such subjects as how werewolves struggle with self identity, the nature of vampire politics and how Sookie portrays the many questions we have about the metaphysical side of mind reading.
I found it particularly interesting that he looks at MaryAnn in the light of how sacrificial rituals and religions work. You will find yourself seeing all the citizens of Bon Temp in a new light after reading this book. This is the perfect book for this time between seasons to get a little more of the old True Blood fever and viewpoints to ponder.
This book was written upon the conclusion of the second season and looks at all the ways that the television show has created a dialogue for the fans and the writers. In fact, some of the essays in here are written by the show writers and look at things like political influences on the show, the role of sexuality in the portrayal of vampires, and then there are the just plain fun stories like Jonna Rubin’s “SOOKEH! Bee-ill! and the Downfall of William T. Compton”.
While it is true that much has happened since season two ended, most of this is just a great look at all the wonderful characters in the show and how the fans just as much as the writers have come together to make the show as great as it is. The heart and soul of True Blood are its fans, and this book shows it with flying colors. A Taste of True Blood is a must for anyone who claims to be a true believer of the show.
This is a graphic novel of the comic books, and before you let that stop you-check it out. The art is just perfect for this set of stories. The premise is a good one; Sookie and company are trapped at Merlotte’s by some kind of sorcery that makes them feel and reveal the little and big secrets they have kept out of shame. It is a great setup to get to know many of these characters better by seeing some old stories of their lives, and deaths, before they came to Bon Temps.
The additional bonus is the art – with many wonderful illustrations of each character you are going to want to mentally frame for future daydreaming. Alan Ball’s touch is all over this – so don’t expect it to feel like the books, this is truly a child of the television show. But that said, it has all of the great touches that Ball brings to the show and brings all of us closer to Sookie, Bill, Eric, Sam, Tara, Jason and Lafayette then we have ever been before.
This is truly a work of fan appreciation for the show. If you love True Blood the show and would like to know more about the actors, who they are and even what they did before this show this is the place to find it all out. The biographies of all the principle characters are here at your fingertips, along with some pretty cool interviews, an episode guide to the first two seasons (this was written between seasons two and three) and some really fun behind the scenes stuff that all fans crave. Like many books on this show, there are discussions of the themes that sit beneath the writing on the show, including its exploration of the identity of sexuality. I particularly liked the fact that Wilcott has included a great overview of the many ways that vampires have been historically shown in both film and television. A great companion book to the show and you don’t need to warm up your laptop to look any of it up!
Well, there are probably tons more of great books about True Blood, and I may yet do an overview of the books I discover along the way. In the meantime, this should hold us all until the show starts again in June.
So for all the Sookie Stackhouse fans out there – just pour yourself a cup of joe and sit back and read up on our favorite vampire companion, with these fun books that explore all the aspects of living and sometimes even breathing in Bon Temps.