HOOKED ON BOOKS: Vampires rule in these parallel-world books
If you can never drink your fill of vampire stories, sink your teeth into these books in which the undead try to take over the world.
I’ve been a fan of Dracula since I was a kid. Maybe it started with his appearance in Tom Lehrer’s song “L-Y” for the children’s TV show, “The Electric Company.” Or maybe it was the Count on “Sesame Street.”
I read Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula” in my teens and loved it so much, I gave a speech about it in high school. Later, I sucked down John Polidori’s short story “The Vampyre,” featuring a Byronic vampire named Lord Ruthven who gave readers nightmares before Dracula was a gleam in Stoker’s eye.
Remember Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles? Several of those books became movies, including “Interview with the Vampire.” More recently, millions swooned over Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, featuring teen-forever vampires with sparkly skin. They need no boost from me.
But that leaves a lot of vampire lore waiting to scare you pale. Most vamps lurk in the shadows and prey on the unwary. However, in some alternate-reality tales, the undead try to take over the world. Whether they charm or chill, the theme is the same: Vampires rule.
“The Greyfriar” is the first of four “Vampire Empire” books by Clay and Susan Griffith. It takes place 150 years after a vampire plague invaded a steampunk version of Victorian England.
Europe was plunged into another feudal age, ruled by monsters, while human resistance has been pushed toward the equator. Just as a princess named Adele is meant to marry a great American vampire slayer, a disaster strands her behind enemy lines.
Adele must survive as best she can, with help from a mysterious, masked man. Their adventure brims with romance, thrilling combat, horror, memorable personalities and a little political satire.
“God Save the Queen” kicks off Kate Locke’s “Immortal Empire” trilogy. It’s also set in a present-day world where a vampire plague hit a then-steampunk England during Victoria’s reign. Otherwise, it’s totally different, starting with the fact that Victoria, herself a vampire, is still queen.
Unlike the Griffiths’ vision of how all this would turn out, Locke’s modern world is a lot like ours, even with some of the same movie stars and pop singers. Vampires, werewolves, goblins and humans have all somehow learned to co-exist, like a weird version of social classes or racial-ethnic groups. Which is to say, in an uneasy truce that could explode any minute.
Enter Xandra, a member of the Royal Guard, who finds out a secret that could blow it all up. A trail of clues about her sister’s supposed suicide leads her to a dangerous truth about herself in a sexy, action-packed tale of political intrigue and personal discovery.
“Soulless” is the first of five “Parasol Protectorate” books by Gail Carriger. Lacy, racy and full of supernatural fun, it’s set in the sort of steampunk Victorian Britain the last two series grew out of.
In Alexia Tarabotti’s England, vampires and werewolves live in the open and even serve in government. Anybody can become one if they want – provided they have enough soul to survive the transformation.
Different people have different amounts of soul, but as a Preternatural, Alexia has zero. This makes her immune to magic attack and provides a paradoxical power that enables her to mix in undead society and pursue hazardous investigations.
Alexia’s friendship with the vampire Lord Akeldama, her love affair with the werewolf Lord Maccon, and her dealings with mad scientists and kooky conspirators build her into an engaging and inspiring heroine.
“Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith is actually a decent biography of our 16th president, stressing Lincoln’s seldom-mentioned mission – to save the country from the bloodsucking fiends who really caused the Civil War.
Come to the book expecting it to be off-the-wall hilarious, and you may find yourself strangely moved by the powerful story of Lincoln’s personal and political life, give or take the terrifying subplot about vampires.
Robin Fish is an avid reader who blogs about books and other topics at afortmadeofbooks.blogspot.com. Contact him with questions or suggestions at email@example.com.