Lately vampire novels have been getting a bad rap. They tend to be sappy, romance-laden, and light on the bloodsucking. I call it the Twilight-ification of the Vampire Novel. It’s an unfortunate phenomenon I mentioned in my book review for Seize the Night. Still, I’ve been lucky to find some really good vampire novels here and there whose titles I will share with you. You can’t let October go by without a good scary book to frighten you.
7. Stoker’s Manuscript, Royce Prouty – I was hooked from the first page of Prouty’s hair-raising horror novel. Antique book whiz Joseph Barkeley is given an offer he can’t refuse when he’s hired to find a valuable manuscript and return it to his client in Transylvania. The problem is his client is really a vampire, and he doesn’t plan to do some light reading before going to bed with the precious text. Family secrets, intrigue, and history all make this horror novel a great read, but the horror–the vampires and what they are capable of–will chill you to the bone.
6. Dracula, the Un-Dead, Dacre Stoker – If you’re wondering if Mr. Stoker is related to Bram Stoker, he is. I first read Stoker’s novel on a whim during a horror kick a few years back, and despite some of the negative reviews, I loved it. Here’s the thing, the bad guy isn’t Dracula this time, so much as it is Elizabeth Bathory (who may be the inspiration behind Lady Gaga’s character in American Horror Story: Hotel). I wouldn’t call this a sequel, but more of a plot twist to the original; a different point of view. I thought it was fun, but most of all, it made me look over my shoulder on more than one occasion when I went out on my smoke breaks. My nerves were that frazzled.
5. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith – I didn’t have very high expectations for Grahame-Smith’s bestselling vampire novel, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. Grahame-Smith weaves an interesting if controversial, tale about the real reason for slavery being a vampire conspiracy to take over the New World using slaves as a food source. Abraham Lincoln is saved and trained by a centuries-old vampire with an ax to grind with these fascist vamps, becoming an axe-wielding badass in the process. These vampires are ruthless and they love it. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter reads like a history book and journal which made it easy to read.
4. Seize the Night, Various including Charlaine Harris and Sherrilyn Kenyon – I did a book review a few weeks back, and I must admit I was really pleased with this book of various short stories. The vampires are menacing, hungry, and true to form. Some stories were so frightening that I had to walk away for a few minutes to gather myself. At one point, I screamed when my own child came into the room. I was very spooked. And I loved it! It’s out today, and I cannot recommend Seize the Night enough for vampire enthusiasts and horror fans alike.
3. The Strain Trilogy, Guillermo del Toro, and Chuck Hogan – After Sunday night’s second season finale, I can officially say that the books are way better than the TV show. The Strain tackles the vampire invasion of New York City (and the world) with just the right amount of suspense. The suspense then builds into something truly unnerving and chilling because Hogan and del Toro approach the invasion like it’s a virus spreading to be contained and cured, and then as something supernatural, even spiritual (this is more evident in the third book which is arguably the weakest in the trilogy). What really makes the series truly special are the individual stories and experiences as these vampires slowly seep into the city block by block, and the suburbs. The vampires in the book aren’t just pawns for The Master like in the FX series. They have their own agenda to attend to first, and that is to go back home and “infect” every person they love or care about.
2. Suffer the Children, Craig DiLouie – All of the children in the world suddenly drop dead, and those still in their mothers’ wombs are no exception. Unless you have gone through puberty you will die. Period. There are no answers, and no way to make sense of the tragedy. Some focus on their heartache and others focus on the reality that without children humans are a doomed species. But when kids start walking out of the morgue or climbing out of their graves, it looks like all will be well, despite the obvious red flags. The first monsters in DiLouie’s novel are the grieving loved ones. As they come to the realization that their children need blood transfusions–at first–to come back to life for shorter and shorter periods of time or lie in state waiting (and decomposing the longer they wait), parents do everything under the sun to get their children what they need. But it’s not really about the kids, is it? And that’s what makes Suffer the Children so good… If you expect lots of scares at first, this may be a disappointment, but DiLouie will first disturb you to your core, then set you up for the fright of your life. This book was truly hard to read in the sense that everything goes from bad to worse, so steel yourself.
1. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova – Kostova’s novel remains one of my favorites, and it is the novel that changed the game for me. I’d been reading Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton, but The Historian showed me that a good vampire novel doesn’t need any extra bells and whistles like romance, and zombies, and other plot devices. All you need is the OG vampire himself, Vlad the Impaler. Refreshingly devoid of all the technological trappings of life in the 21st century, The Historian covers a time period from the 1930s to the 1970s as three different people, one a young woman looking for her father, go looking for a very much alive and well Vlad.