Monday, October 05, 2009
Who deserves the horrifying honor of being the ultimate vampire novel?
With Halloween only a few weeks away and vampires being in vogue at this particular pop culture moment,it seems like the perfect time to talk about which book should win the gruesome glory of being considered the ultimate vampire novel.
While most people will automatically say "Dracula,duh!",that answer may not get the popular support of the ever growing fang loving fan base there. Thanks to the great success of TV series such as True Blood and the new teen hit The Vampire Diaries(based on L.J. Smith's YA series),other takes on the classic creatures of the night are being held in higher estimate and in some quarters,are much better known.
A few of the disgruntled will point fingers at the Twilight saga for this,but really,it's more due to the modern day flairs and new twists and tweaks that make the current crop of vamps look sexier and extra enticing than the old blood. Sort of a tried and true method amongst vampires themselves,no matter what the mythology of the moment.
Nonetheless,there are certain standard bearers in this genre and since the continuing strength and stamina of it comes from literature,the importance of reading the classics as well as acknowledging the ground breakers is crucial. To start off,let's look at the Top Five contenders for the ultimate title:
1) DRACULA/BRAM STOKER
Altho vampires have made appearances in myths around the world,their best spokesman has always been the Count himself. Bram Stoker's novel hosts a variety of terror themes that still resonate today such as fear of foreign influences,the alarming advancement of technology and untimely ends for the innocent.
The book's ultimate appeal is the underlying sexuality of the story,particularly towards the ladies,some of whom become predators as well as prey. While the novel doesn't make Dracula a romantic figure,the majority of film and stage versions do in order to sell it to audiences wanting a little dramatic tension. The book may seem tame in that department for readers of our time but to the Victorians who first discovered it,Dracula was hot stuff:
2)INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE/ANNE RICE
While Dracula got the ball rolling,no one can deny that Anne Rice's unexpected bestseller gave vampires a much needed transfusion of cultural currency back in the mid-Seventies. She embraced the sensuousness that surrounded the genre,due to the many movie versions made over the years,and added a few fresh components that would've been taboo to even mention in "polite society" back in Stoker's day.
The numerous follow-ups to the first book wound up getting more convoluted,which lead to Rice taking a break from the genre,but the power of the one that started it all is undeniable:
3)'SALEM'S LOT/STEPHEN KING
Another entry from the 1970's,Stephen King was fast becoming a household name when his notion of "What would Dracula do these days?"hit bookshelves and caught the eager imaginations of readers delighted to be frightened by the thought of their small town friends and neighbors turning into legions of the undead.
King blended the vampire legend with the shiny,happy allure of Americana that conceals a tidy mess of secrets and lies,a cross between Dracula and Peyton Place. Two TV miniseries have been made from the book but the real flavor of the fear factor is still within the pages:
4)DEAD UNTIL DARK/CHARLAINE HARRIS
The shift in social mores has also produced a change in focus regarding female characters. Thanks to the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and characters such as Anita Blake and Damali Richards,women have gone from swooning victims to formidable foes against the vampire hordes(altho not without the risk of falling in love with the enemy).
While the kick butt antics have been fun to watch,the need for a more vulnerable but still feisty heroine has been meet by Sookie Stackhouse,the mind reading waitress from Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series.
In many ways,Sookie has a lot of the same problems as most regular folks such as a never-do-well brother, a hectic work schedule and a troublesome boyfriend named Bill. The only difference is that Bill's a vampire,her boss is a shapeshifter and many of the troubles coming to their little Louisiana hometown have inhuman teeth that bite. The HBO series inspired by the books keeps true enough to the original intentions of the author while making a few new creative steps along the way:
Love it or hate it,the power of Stephenie Meyer's saga of sparkle vampires is impressive indeed. She may not get the respect that some of the other players in this field get but her storytelling skills are not to be denied.
While you may quibble about the healthiness of Bella and Edward's relationship or the retake on vampire lore presented,Meyer does invoke the tentative terrors of budding romance while allowing her characters to act as realistically as possible within their unusual circumstances.
There's a reason that Twilight has fans amongst adults as well as teens and that is due to the timeless appeal of finding your true love and accepting whatever obstacles that may rise up to stand in your way:
So,which one is the ultimate vampire novel? I think that I'll let you folks decide for yourselves by putting up a poll for you to vote in and please feel free to make other selections known by adding a comment to this post. Feedback is the lifeblood of any fandom,with the understanding that agreeing to disagree is the best policy. This debate is meant to bring people together and not tear them apart,literally or otherwise. With that in mind,okay ramblers,let's get to rambling!:
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