I have to admit, upfront, that I didn’t finish this book. I plan to (someday), but right now all I really want is to put as much distance between me aI have to admit, upfront, that I didn’t finish this book. I plan to (someday), but right now all I really want is to put as much distance between me and Varney. The breaking point was getting to the end of my kindle version and realizing that, besides the 96 chapters contained in it, I had 124 more to look forward to. 124 more chapters filled with more and more repetitive actions, mindless chatter, and a vampire that instead of looking like this:
Is more and more looking like a 19th century version of this:
“Varney the Vampire or the Feast of Blood” starts promising enough. In the middle of a stormy night, a beautiful maiden is attacked by a vampire and left for dead while her brothers hunt the villain. As the story progresses we learn that the girl, Flora, survived the attack and is now the middle of a convoluted plot designed by her attacker to gain possession of the house her family inhabits. At first the mystery is compelling and I honestly couldn’t wait to read what happened next (hence the 3 star rating) but before long the rhythm of the story starts to become repetitive: Varney does something, a furious mob attacks, he hides. Then he finds some other hideout, another mob appears, and he runs again. Little by little the force of that first chapter, the strength and terrifying power of the monster that is so apparent there dilutes, and by the time I gave up all I had left was the silhouette of a broken man tumbling along and trying to atone for past mistakes.
That being said, I also believe that any self-respecting vampire fan should at least take a peek at this story. The influence it has on Dracula is clear, except for the restoring power of moonbeams and the ability of walking in daytime without any decrease in power. Varney (at the beginning, at least) has that hypnotic power over his victims that forces them to submit to his will, and a level of class and distinction that vampires didn’t have before. Too bad that at times he resembles Edward Cullen more than the Lord of Darkness, but at least he doesn’t sparkle.
The rest of the characters in “Varney the Vampire” are pretty bland. Flora and her fiancé, Charles Holland, fill the hero and heroine rolls to perfection, even desiring no harm upon the being that almost took away the sanity of said girl despite his many, many crimes. The only exceptions to the rule are Admiral Bell and his best friend/servant, Jack Pringle. Their constant arguments and expressions were a much welcome relief, even if later they also got a bit tedious.
But even after everything I said before, one has to keep in mind that this book was published as a series, a “penny dreadful”. It was meant to entertain and amuse through short chapters and it’s kind of unfair to judge it by today’s standards. It does manage to engage the attention and, with heavy (HEAVY) editing it could have been a memorable vampire tale. I hope to finish It one day and tell you how the story of “Varney the Vampire or the Feast of Blood” ends. ...more
I came across this collection while looking for “Southern Gods” on Amazon. At 99 cents it didn’t look as if I had anything to lose by giving it a tryI came across this collection while looking for “Southern Gods” on Amazon. At 99 cents it didn’t look as if I had anything to lose by giving it a try and what would you know? That little investment turned into a couple of hours well spent. The stories in “Fierce as the Grave” are short, twisted, and greatly increased my desire to read some of Hornor’s longer work.
“Verrata”, the first tale, takes place in futuristic New Orleans that is far from being ideal. Hornor takes ghosts to the next level here, and introduces lots of elements that were confusing at first but made “Verrata” memorable in the end.
“Heaven of Animals” is a mix between zombies and the Wild West. It was my least favorite, perhaps because I needed a few more pages to really feel something for the characters. If you happen to like zombies, however, this one is definitely for you.
“Bone China” is the story of two women, a birthday celebration and a family reunion. It’s by far my favorite tale from this book; it’s set in the South and the atmosphere really shines through the text, which just makes it all that much creepier.
In “Sneaking in” a small town kid learns that every action has a consequence. This tale marks the end of the collection and it left me wanting more, which I guess was Hornor’s intent from the beginning. The creepiness here, to me, lies not in the supernatural element, but in the protagonist’s system of beliefs, that justifies abuse as long as you can get away with it.
Overall, “Fierce as the Grave” is one solid collection, and if you have the time to spare, a great read. ...more
Sometimes things have to hit rock bottom before going up again. I feel that this is the case with vampire stories: over the years the image of the monSometimes things have to hit rock bottom before going up again. I feel that this is the case with vampire stories: over the years the image of the monster became less frightening and more desirable, no longer giving voice to our fears but embodying the danger and sexiness of the “bad boy” we all wanted to be with at some point in our lives. Halloween parties are filled with slutty vampire costumes, successful movies make money with vegetarian blood suckers, and the typical paranormal romance library shelf is brimming over with vampire teenage drama.
But, as I said before, maybe this had to happen before writers felt the need to go back to the basics and started delivering good, old fashioned bloody plots with the evil monsters I loved and feared so much as a little kid.
In “Draculas” you won’t meet lost souls looking for redemption. You won’t find sexy-looking children of the night willing to make your fantasies come true (unless your biggest dream consists of being torn apart and having your organs ripped by huge monster fangs), and you definitely will not come across sparkly teenagers wanting to blend in with the oh so lovable human crowd. Absolutely NOT.
What you will find though, is a fun story with crazy vampires that look like a mix between a shark from hell, a zombie (think fast, filled with rage, zombies), and a b-movie abomination. I’m talking about vampires that will stop at nothing to suck you dry, that need to be constantly in search of blood, and that at times can reason to the point of becoming even more terrifying, or hilarious. They’re not stopped by crosses, garlic, the bible, a stake through the heart, or daylight. The only way to kill them is to aim for the complete annihilation of the head, and even then, sometimes, you’ll find trouble. These are the monsters you don’t want to find outside your window looking in, or trying to kiss you in your sleep. Oh no. And if you showed up to a Halloween party looking like one of these beast you’ll turn heads, and then cause a few cases of nausea and pant wetting.
“Draculas” starts with a fresh, original premise: A millionaire with terminal cancer centers his last hope of recovery on what seems to be the skull of Dracula, found in Romania. After stabbing himself in the neck with the thing’s inhuman fangs, he’s transported to a rural hospital, where all hell breaks loose. Throughout the book we follow several characters as they try to survive the horror (or gather as much delicious blood as possible), and the ride is a lot of fun. There is plenty of gore to keep you gagging, and the over the top scenes abound with clichés that make you laugh and be afraid at the same time. The action is non-stop, (I sometimes wished for a slower pace), but in every scene you could tell that the authors had fun writing this novel, trying to top each other and letting loose parts of their imagination that probably wouldn’t fit in their “normal” work. They also proved that the vampire genre still has potential for reinvention, and that horror fans can hope and expect future novels that will just barely come short of literary sucking the blood out of them.
So anyway, awesome, fun story. Highly recommended for people who think that true vampire books are extinct. ...more
Note to self: do not read ANYTHING written by Stephen King after dark. Nothing. Not even if it happens to be comedy, or non-fiction, or freaking poetrNote to self: do not read ANYTHING written by Stephen King after dark. Nothing. Not even if it happens to be comedy, or non-fiction, or freaking poetry. Haven’t you been traumatized enough? You can’t see a clown without pissing yourself! Not that it’s hard to scare me though. I’m the kind of girl that needs to have every light on when she goes downstairs to grab a glass of water, one of those people who knows something’s right behind ready to grab me if I don't reach the second floor as fast as possible and one of these days my mom is going to call and find nothing but shattered glass and nail marks in the wood…
That little show of paranoia should show you that I’m a bit of a masochist when it comes to horror. It should also indicate you that most of the stars given to this short story collection come from King’s talent to scare me shitless. From electronic appliances from hell to the torture of memories, these tales bring to your door a big bag of uncomfortable feelings and triggers for insomnia. Among the ones that impacted me the most are:
- Jerusalem’s Lot:This was the reason I decided to read this book in the first place. It’s a sort of prequel to the events of Salem’s Lot: a man moves into a house that once belonged to his ancestors and progressively discovers an unsettling relation between his family and a ghost town called Jerusalem’s Lot. The story stands on its own well; it doesn’t require prior knowledge of the novel to enjoy it (although it certainly helps) and the style reminded me a little of Lovecraft and Sheridan Le Fanu. For those of us familiar with Salem’s Lot, it reinforces the idea of the existence of places that attract evil, be it in the form of vampires, serial killers, or even gigantic worms from hell.
- I am the Doorway: An astronaut has to deal with the after effects of an exploration to Venus that goes really, really wrong. This one was creepy as hell, and it plays with the concept of close encounters in a way that I found very original. It made me want to scratch myself all over.
- The Mangler: Here Kings answers the one question we’ve all asked ourselves at one point in our lives: What would happen if a demon possessed a laundry folding machine? What’s that? You don’t believe that anyone could wonder such a thing? They even made a movie!! (Starred by Robert Englund, no less)
But seriously, it’s a good story. Those laundry machines are fucking evil.
- The Boogeyman: This is the reason why I can’t open my closet door during the night. I originally read this story when I was 16 years old, living through my first winter in the house of my host parents, and it scared me so bad I considered the possibility of going upstairs and begging (at that point) virtual strangers to let me sleep with them. Here, let me give you an idea of what I looked like:
In case you’re wondering, this little gem tells the story of a single psychotherapy session with a man who’s convinced that the boogeyman has killed his three children, and is now trying to get him.
- Grey Matter: Have you ever thought about the worst thing that could happen from eating rotten food? The result could turn you into a cross between and , so please check the expiration date of everything you eat.
- Sometimes They Come Back:I knew I was going to like this one right from the title. When ghost from the past force a high school teacher to come to terms with some memories buried deep within, he has to employ some drastic measures to preserve what little remains of his sanity. And it also has a movie coming up sometime next year!!
- Strawberry Spring:A serial killer haunts a college campus during the strawberry spring. I saw the ending coming from a mile away, but it was still a pretty good story and I really recommend it.
- The Lawnmower Man: All I can tell you about this story without spoiling it is that you’ll want to get off your lazy ass and take care of your own lawn. This story was weird and wonderful and made me very weary of the man that is in charge of the lawn in my neighbor’s house.
- Quitters, Inc.: “Quitters” is a story that will hold a special appeal to smokers. The proposed method is unorthodox to say the least, and quite chilling, but if that doesn’t cure you then nothing will.
- Children of the Corn:I know this story spawned around seven movies that I don’t plan to see. It’s about a couple on the brink of a painful divorce that gets lost in the middle of nowhere… well, to say it better, in the middle of the Kingdom ruled by “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”. The disturbing factor of “Children of the Corn” is high, probably because it reminded me of kids like this little dude: Mexican Preacher. Little preachers always give me the chills.
- The Last Rung on the Ladder: The following contains spoilers, you’ve been warned: (view spoiler)[ So… one of my uncles killed himself about a month after I turned 15. My cousin found him in the early hours of the morning strapped to a bed; apparently after ingesting cyanide one tends to get frantic because it feels like drowning, and my uncle thought it best to prevent any outburst that could alert family members of what was happening. What I remember the most about the whole event was waking up at dawn and finding my dad in his room crying. He held me and said that on my birthday party my uncle had tried to talk to him, but my dad had brushed him off telling my uncle that he needed to get his act together before asking anyone else for help. Now he wished he could turn back time and do a better job being a brother… I know that this memory still eats him alive from time to time, and it’s probably scarier than the most terrible thing my frantic mind can come up with at any given moment. Reading this short piece of fiction was like reliving that morning all over again, and it still brings tears to my eyes. It was very moving story, and it’s probably going to stay in my heart longer than anything else in this collection. (hide spoiler)]
- One for the Road: The second reason for picking up this collection is right here. It attempts to give a sort of continuation to the events of Salem’s Lot, but all I could think while reading it was (view spoiler)[ What happened to Mark and Ben????? What did they do after the fire? Did they leave? But it didn’t look like that was their intention!!!!! Did they try to go after the remaining vampires? But why are the creatures back then? YOU’RE KILLING ME MR. KING!!!!!!!! (hide spoiler)]. I’d like to think the best though, and it is in its own right a good vampire story, so I’m recommending it. And tonight I’m sleeping with my parents, just in case.
- The Woman in the Room: The central theme of this story is terrifying, but not for the reasons you think. If a loved one is suffering from a terminal illness that has taken away the most basic aspects of his dignity, do you let the disease run its course or do you do something about it? I don’t think that SK is trying to pass judgment on either answer here but, for what it’s worth, I think it’s at least important to ask the question. (oh, and the story is also very good, so read it please :) )
In conclusion: please do yourself a favor and read this book. You’re bound to find at least one story that tickles your fancy. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Once again, Stephen King manages to scare the crap out of me. It didn’t help that I decided to revisit this vampire classic while being in a strange hOnce again, Stephen King manages to scare the crap out of me. It didn’t help that I decided to revisit this vampire classic while being in a strange house, unable to sleep because of the heat, and with no religious objects anywhere near my bed. (I’m a shitty atheist, I know) Still, there are no regrets. Salem’s Lot does justice to a monster that lately has been treated by literature and the entertainment industry as the new teenage heartthrob. Well, not here. If my Edward-Cullen-is-the-love-of-my-life best friend ever sees a motherfucker like Barlow outside her window in the middle of the night, lust and attraction wouldn’t exactly be the first things on her mind before screaming bloody murder.
The first part of the book introduces us to Salem’s Lot, a dying little town with little to recommend it to strangers. Its inhabitants, for the most part, have enough dealing with their own secrets and little evils to aspire for more, and thus are content living in a place with no future. In the second part of the story we see how their false sense of security tries to persist even in the face of the unthinkable, leaving up to a writer, a priest, a high school teacher, a doctor, a young boy and a local woman the destruction of the evil that threatens to destroy Salem’s Lot forever.
As I said before, Salem’s Lot took me back to a time where vampires weren’t sensitive and tortured beings looking for love or redemption. What we get instead is a predator of the worst kind, with the cunning mind of a human and the thirst for blood of a beast. There is no negotiation or bargain with such a creature, no way to escape or avoid becoming that which killed you in the first place and that, first and foremost, is what I love about this book. Barlow, the vampire overlord, is a fitting tribute to Stoker’s Dracula and unlike other reviewers I wasn’t bothered by his lack of background or the few times he is present in a scene. It made the times he actually did anything more frightening and mysterious, and it built his image as an ancient and powerful being beyond human comprehension.
As for the rest of the characters, my favorite was Mark Petrie. He reminds me of that magical time where monsters were real and were waiting for my mom to close the bedroom door to pounce on me; if one ever did, I’d like to think that I would’ve reacted with as much faith in the supernatural as he does in this novel. Father Callahan is another remarkable character, having to face a situation that proves and challenges his faith at the same time, but part of me feels feels that my sympathy comes from (view spoiler)[knowing what awaits him in The Dark Tower series (hide spoiler)]. The first time I read Salem’s Lot I wasn’t nearly as understanding of his actions, or found him a very likable character.
Having said that, I also need to point out that there are things that could be improved here. Although near the end I was able to appreciate King’s attempt in the first part of the book to make us care at least a little for the fate of the Lot’s occupants, his introductions take too much of the book and slow the pace considerably. There are just too many people to meet, and it isn’t always easy to remember their backgrounds by the time something actually happens to them.
The motives and personalities of the main characters also felt weak at times. Father Callahan comes to mind as an example: (view spoiler)[ In his showdown with Barlow he lacked the faith that even non-Catholics have displayed throughout the novel with no difficulty. It wasn’t unbelievable, but it could have been explored more and it ended up looking like a wasted opportunity. (hide spoiler)] I also had a bit of trouble with Susan. I’m a sucker for strong female characters, and while she didn’t rub me the wrong way, I was left expecting more from her actions and got instead a somewhat stereotypical ending.
So yeah. Even knowing that this isn't King's finest hour, ("The Shining" and "The Stand" are sooo much better) I can’t give less than 5 stars to something that made me stay awake most of the night, dying from heat but refusing to open the window for fear of seeing a neighbor clinging to it and begging to be let in.
Finally, I want to close this little review with some quotes that got stuck in my head and refuse to leave me alone:
“The town cares for devil’s work no more than it cares for God’s or man’s. It knew darkness. And darkness was enough.”
“There is no life here but the slow death of days, and so when the evil falls on the town, its coming seems almost preordained, sweet and morphic.”
“As the stranger came closer, Dud understood everything and welcomed it, and when the pain came, it was as sweet as silver, as green as still water at dark fathoms”....more