Creature Feature: Vampires
This year, I will be reading as many books about monsters and creatures that I can. Each month, I will focus on a different type of monster and reporting my results in a series of articles. For January, I decided to read vampire books. I wanted to focus on lesser-known and indie titles for these articles, so if I don't include a classic in my run down, forgive me. For example, for the vampire article, I'm assuming that everyone interested in vampire fiction knows about Bram Stoker, Charlene Harris, Stephanie Meyer, and Anne Rice.
Vampires have always been a staple of horror fiction, but before they were in literature, they were present in our myths. There are stories of vampires dating back from Ancient Greece and Mesopotamia, but the first vampire in literature is arguably from 1819's The Vampyre by Polidori. In modern literature, certain tropes are associated with the vampire, and these are important to the vampire myth. The most popular of these tropes are an unquenchable thirst for human blood; sharp fangs; the need to be invited in; pale appearance; and sensitivity to sunlight, garlic, running water, holy water, crosses. Also, vampires can be killed with a stake through the heart or by being beheaded. Although, I've never understood that last one because can't everything be killed in that way? There are certain things that we expect from our bloodsuckers, the stories that stick to these tropes are tremendous, but it's always exciting when stories break from the traditional mold. There are books in this article that have vampires going in the sun, without fangs, and that don't have to drink blood. So the question becomes, what makes a vampire?
After reading nearly 20 books dealing with vampires, I can say that these are my five favorites. If you're going to pick a book to read off this list, start with these.
Teeth by Kelli Owen
Teeth is a realistic look at what it would be like if vampires "came out" to the world. Lamians (as the vampires prefer to be called) look and act like humans, but in their teens, their canine teeth fall out, and fangs grow in their place. Lamians are welcomed by some members of society but shunned by others. There are various characters in Teeth, all facing their own struggle. There's a woman that becomes paranoid that her Lamian son will kill her in her sleep. There's a high school girl that is dealing with the high school drama of a newly fanged Lamian. A human man that desperately wants to become a Lamian and will kill to try and make that happen. I loved everything about this book and the world that Owen has created. It's the freshest take on the vampire myth that I've read, and it felt so real and so close to our current world. The characters are fantastic, and the writing is superb. I could gush about this one all day, but I will force myself to stop and say READ THIS DAMN BOOK!
The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman
If Christopher Nolan wrote a vampire book, it would be The Lesser Dead. Dark, brutal, gritty, and grimy but wildly entertaining. This story follows Joey Peacock in 1970s New York City. Joey and his vampire friends live in the sewers and have a pretty good life. They like to go clubbing and partying, and when they go out drinking after a night on the town, they are cautious not to kill their victims so to keep the cops off their trail. Word arrives of a roving band of feral children vampires that kill all their victims and play with the corpses; Joey knows that those kids need to be taught the ways or dealt with because they're going to draw the wrong kind of attention. This one has lots of traditional tropes but breaks them in creative ways that will keep you entertained.
Maria the Wanted by V. Castro
Maria is living in Mexico with dreams of the United States when vampires destroy the factory she works at, and she's turned instead of killed. When she wakes she begins her quest for the man that turned her to get her revenge. In the meantime, Maria has to figure out how to be a vampire without being evil. She becomes a nighttime vigilante that protects the downtrodden and defenseless of her town. She soon develops a following of people she's rescued. Then Maria finds the man that turns her and discovers a worldwide network of good vampires that protect humanity called The Keepers. I won't go into further detail about them to avoid spoilers, but this book went places that I would never have expected, and I loved every twist and turn.
‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
To me, 'Salem's Lot is the definitive vampire story. King uses all the tropes with bloody aplomb. If you haven't read it, you really need to change that. I had avoided it for some reason, and when I read it this month, it instantly became one of my favorites. Barlow is a fantastic and scary villain. For a summary, an evil vampire arrives and slowly takes over a small town in Maine. The few remaining non-vampires have to team up to defeat evil and escape with their lives.
In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson
I still cannot believe that this book is Andy Davidson's debut novel. A dark as can be vampire tale set in Texas. The characters are layered and interesting with mysterious motivations and actions that don't make sense until the end of the book. If you pick this one up and in the middle are frustrated that you don't know what's going on, don't worry, it all comes together. Davidson uses pretty much all the traditional tropes but manages to make the whole experience feel fresh. If you're at all a fan of dark fiction, this book is a must-read.
Besides those five, I read a lot of vampire books that I'd like to highlight. While I'm not going to talk about them individually, I can tell you that I recommend all of these. I've included a link to each book's Amazon page so you can explore them for yourself.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Complete Double Dead by Chuck Wendig
Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker
The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle
Grief is a False God by Gemma Amor
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due
Necroscope by Brian Lumley
Until the Sun by Chandler Morrison
I've enjoyed immersing myself in the world of the vampire over the past month or so, and if you know of any vampire books that I should check out, I’d like to know! Hit me up on Twitter (@teamredmonreads) or Instagram (@teamredmon) and let me know what I missed! In February, I will be reading books about sea monsters, so keep an eye open for my next Creature Feature in March.
Matt is a middle school math teacher. He's originally from Kentucky but currently lives in Arkansas with his beautiful wife and 2-year-old son. In addition to reading dark fiction, he also enjoys board games and Disney World.