Saturday, July 4, 2009

Dracula's Brood, compiled by Richard Dalby

Mmm, vampires.

This is a collection of 24 vampire stories published shortly before or after the publication of the infamous Dracula in 1897. Some of them influenced Dracula; others were influenced by it.

I was amazed by how much I enjoyed this anthology. There were no stories I disliked, and only a few that didn't impress me. I tend to think of that time period as a little bit one-note with all the stories being the same, but there's an astonishing variety here. The disembodied finger gave me doubts and the man-eating trees destroyed my conception altogether.

I will emphasize that this variety is all about ideas. The stories in this anthology could've all been written by the same person stylistically, and I found that I liked that... There's no getting caught up in verbal acrobatics and a writer frantically trying to "find their own unique voice." It makes it a lot easier to get lost in the story for the story itself.

Fingers and trees aside, there's a lot of classic vampire stuff here. Back then "vampire" still meant "horror story," and these stories are actually scary, while still containing that essential vampireness that we still love today. A special effort has been made to include stories that aren't reprinted often, so there's new material here even for the most hardcore fan. (Some of these haven't been reprinted since they were first published, over a hundred years ago!) There's even a tasty poem translated from the original Romanian.

I recommend this anthology first to any short story writers and horror writers in particular, because there's a lot they could pick up about pacing, technique, etc. that is still just as useful today as it was back then.

For vampire fans (and I mean fans of vampires altogether, not just any book with vampires in it. You know who you are,) you should definitely read Dracula, then move on to The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories or The Dracula Book of Great Vampire Stories, both of which have plenty of the classic short stories like The Vampyre and Carmilla and Dracula's Guest, and then settle down to savor Dracula's Brood, one story at a time. It doesn't look like it's in print anymore, so get it while it's here and cheap.

Buy Dracula's Brood

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