I just finished the Advanced Reading Copy I won a while back from April Nichole's Blog and I must say: Awesome!
Here is the synopsis, such that there can be:
Sink your teeth into these bite-sized tales exploring the intersections among the living, dead, and undead. The vampires in these stories range from romantic to chilling to gleeful—and touch on nearly every emotion in between. The one thing they have in common? Their desire for blood.
I have said before: Vampires are my third love - tying for third anyway, with the Faes. And as such, next to Zombies and Weres - I jump at a chance to read a story about the living undead (or however you choose to define them).
The one thing about this anthology - before I even get into the stories themselves - the introduction by editors Datlow and Windling - it blew me away! They were such learned people who really considered the subject matter and the reach of the subject matter before delving in and writing this. They are superb and the introduction is top notch. I really appreciated having such an internationally minded and detailed introduction to these stories.
And the care! The care they took in choosing these stories is mind numbingly amazing! I cannot believe the range of these stories - they were all so well done! Granted, some top notch authors are on this list. Authors I adore like Neil Gaiman. But also authors I have never heard of - but am now itching to read more of. Authors like Genevieve Valentine whose story blew me away.
So, I thought I would do a little blurb on each of the stories:(19 in total - so pull up a mug of hot cocoa and enjoy)
This story just blew me away. It's about a girl who gets into a car accident, and because of how she dies (i.e. violently) she comes back as, what her grandmother terms, a jiang-shi - like a vampire, but even stranger. The way it is written and the ending touched me, and I really liked the depth of the characters - especially the burgeoning personality of her "imaginary" friend.
I didn't know what to expect with this story at first: it's about a boy,a serial killer - but you instantly feel so protective and so in tune with him - the poor guy is sent to some camp where he is relatively sure the other kids mean to beat the crap out of him. So he escapes, and all the hurt and anger that well in him, comes off the page. He is met by a pair of strangers who pick him up (he's hitchhiking) and cue the ensuing madness. I liked this tale - even though the vampires were at a minimum, because of the raw potential you see in Saul (the main character) - he's so vibrantly written that you feel you know him - or know someone like him. The Vampires are just a calling to Saul's inner self coming out finally, after being repressed for so long.
When a story opens with Vampires coming to town and hosting a free for all in the high school gym ... I am not sure where to go with it. However, for this story - it works. Retta is so angry, and so passive, and somehow the Vampires bring out her wild side, her potential and her understanding of the world - the title itself, "Gap Year", refers to that year between high school and college that some people take - and it makes sense with the end of this story, in an almost sad way.
I have been a fan of Neil Gaiman since the twelfth grade when a friend of mine, JH, loaned me his copy of Neverwhere and told me it would be right up my alley. Of course, he was right (and dudes - go read it, and watch the tv movie too - believe it or not, the movie preceded the book in this case). There is a reason to my life of Neil Gaiman - his prose is excellent. He could write about a blade of grass, and somehow make it interesting - make it dynamic, even. He has that kind of pull. So imagine what he can do with Vampires!? I know, right?
A circus! And a girl, Lenka, with blood cancer in a Vampire novella - serious! Nice thinking! And pulled off so well. Lenka runs off with a strange little Eastern European circus, and she's so in tune and intelligent - she figures out what's going on - but she's too clever to just dwell on it - so she does something about it. And it such a bittersweet ending - really well done!
Garth Nix is one of those authors who has existed in the periphery of my reading-world for a long time, but until I got Zombies vs. Unicorns, and now Teeth, I have not read. His Unicorn/Zombie story in the former and this one in Teeth were both excellent! Like, this one covers a village after the Vampires have been outed, but are starving due to the whole world getting vaccinated (the vaccination, it is implied, makes the blood poisonous to vampires), and there exists these little villages and outposts (like the Amish or the Hutterites, they refuse to get vaccinations) that still abide by the old ways of protecting against vampires - staying indoors at night, carrying crosses and garlic, etc. The story's main character suddenly has his world turned upside down when he meets his new neighbour down the road, Tangerine. Enter madness. Well executed madness. I really liked the dynamic - and I will admit, it had a little taste of dystopia which instantly peaked my interest.
Ivan works at an antiques market, where he sullenly watches the days go by. Then he meets an old woman interested in very unique antiques he doesn't understand. And then he realizes what he's stumbled on ... The play between the always-child and the mentor is very interesting in this story, but what is more interesting, at least for me, is the fact that the two vampires are both women who are a tad manic - but they are in a constant power struggle with one another, not for any man but for each other - it's a subtle distinction, but it's really refreshing to see.
Claudia the Vampire is bored with life, but not bored enough to kill herself. This is told from her perspective and it goes through all her former lovers and friends and how she slowly isolated herself from her own kind. Through her long life, she has,however, found a friend in Ken - who was a long time ago, supposed to be her dinner, but now is the only man she truly cares about. In many ways, she is going through the motions - but the beauty of her story is the fact that she still recognizes life when she sees it - which leads us to this amazing conclusion!
Gina and Amy are BFFs like anyone else ... except one is a dead girl and the other is the walking undead. I think this story is endearing - it's one of those stories of enduring, unlikely friendship - one that is initially based on lies, but as it grows, becomes so life altering and honest that it almost hurts to read the ending. And it is worth reading the ending. The ending was packed in so well - I highly recommend a kleenex.
Wicked. So wicked. This story is about a boy with low self confidence and a hot girlfriend from somewhere in Eastern Europe. In an attempt to impress her and her family, he agrees to sit with her crazy uncle over the coffin of her dead aunt for the night, for some vague family tradition. He thinks it's creepy, but it will be fine. Of course, her aunt has something in her and it's going crazy ... I liked this story. I mean - Vampire hunting family types? Predestined Vampirism? Eastern Europe in a nutshell? It reminded me, actually, of a movie from Romania called Strigoi. It is something like traditional meets the craziness that is Vampires of the modern age - very well done!
This is a sad one. You see the end coming, and your heart breaks for the in character - the danger, of course, is in taunting the near dead vampire who is living under your house. The dynamic and power struggle between the dangerous undead and the little boy who holds the key to his safety is an exciting read - and the ending will blow you away (I kept hoping it would change). But the portrayal of the vampire especially was so well done - particularly when contrasted to the hopelessness of the hurricane-torn neighbourhood and the little boys.
This is a weird one - about a bat boy. It is also a coming of age story, and I like that about it. It's written in the first person, which makes it quite in your face. This story in particular reads like a love story - or more importantly, a love letter. From the girl, to this strange little bat creature. And somehow, somehow it works. Really well and really creepy like. I have to say that this is in my Top 5. Though it didn't hit me right away - this was a slow growing appreciation. But the growing up and growing out of old family traditions and such - it's really interesting.
This is another Dystopian short story - sort of. This is a world where all the legends are to be taken literally: and since there are so many differing (and sometimes contradicting) legends, almost all teenagers become vampires. It's a story about paranoia and isolationism, and doing what's best for our kids through fear instead of knowledge. It was really well written - less thriller then thoughtful, and I feel that if it were a full length knowledge it would be on m y shelf in a second. As a short story, I was kind of upset when it ended, but after lettign it roll around in my head for a few days - I liked the ending.
Eliana is kind of a "bad girl" who fantasizes about Vampire bites, and then realizes, it is not so much a fantasy at all. This is very much a territorial story - it sets boundaries that work within the story that carry certain connotations - for example, like heterosexual monogamous relationships. However, as a story and to prove what it is - basically, fear and the overtaking of older generations, it is well done!
This one was a very calm, almost break within the rest - mostly, I think because it dealt with the question any Vampire lover reader thinks of at a certain point: what's the age difference really mean? And there is this thread of academic curiosity at war with emotions that fills this story and makes it real - it makes me think I could be that girl, walking down that river with that man and thinking those exact same things. And that, for me, is remarkable.
This is one of the creepiest stories I have read - not because of suspense, not because of tension or thrill - but rather, because it includes a little girl who likes to hurt others. And you only realize that later, but throughout the whole story she is so ... cold and calculating. It really is a scary thing. I like both these authors immensely and I think their mix of the satirical mannerisms and survival of self, impostering a child, while being inside an adult - it reminds me of Anne Rice's work - so well done!
Louie/Elle has been in the same Florida town her whole life and it has stained her. I think that alone is worth rereading - the stain of a small town, and all that comes with it. It is a very interesting concept. And one that I think bears thought. From this, Louie/Elle meets Sandrine - a vampire stuck in a roofless house surrounded by mirrors, waiting for her death at the mouth of a Djadadj. Unlike the "Best Friends Forever" short story - this is a very different girl friends relationship - it is almost destructive, but just as strong, it's a very interesting contrast and I like the way that Shepard explores this, even while back lighting against their own respective histories and stories. Very well done.
This poem flows - and it echoes. It is very much one of those poems that explains a generation. And it really does. it's at turns cheeky, deep and thoughtful and I like the combination of sour and sweet to equal parts dry. I think it is just short enough to copy onto a notebook cover too, lucky me! :)
Daisha's story when she leaves home to be married off to a Vampire, unlike her, who cannot walk in the day, but is heir to an empire, named Zeev. This story is a Pride and Prejudice story - because of their preconceived notions of one another and where they come from, they don't give one another a real chance to get to know the other. And when they finally crack through their own prejudice (well, Daisha's prejudice, Zeev is pretty cool all around), you feel like, "For serious!?" - Great story! And a great way to end the collection, since it is one that definitely ends more contemplatively and happier then some of the others.
Again, the choice here is amazing - the reading is sometimes difficult, too. There are adult themes and such. However I think that is what makes this worth the purchase - it is a very in depth book. It's about Vampires, guys - it has to get into the nitty gritty sexy scary underworld of what that entails - even when it's dirty and gross. And this collection does so, so well!
Vampires have been symbols for sex, for a Dorian Gray like narcissism; the beauty and darkness of youth; for the benefit of wisdom; for near everything. And I think that this collection adapts those symbols and then furthers them so that there can be more understandings of these mythical creatures.
I highly recommend this collection - it is perfect for one of those long, stormy nights when you wrap yourself in a blanket, and just want to read ...