SEIZE THE NIGHT
Edited By CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN (Gallery Books; 2015)
The aim of this 21-story collection is simple enough: to restore the vampire to its rightful place as a figure of horror. Editor Christopher Fowler makes this clear in his introduction, although he refrains from naming the main culprits--Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyer--in the vampire’s fall from grace. You won’t find any romantic or vegetarian bloodsuckers in these pages, and I say great!
The novella length “Up in Old Vermont” by Scott Smith starts things off with a richly atmospheric depiction of rural Vermont, where the thirtyish Alley looks after an elderly couple--and discovers a most horrific secret. “In A Cavern, In A Canyon” by Laird Barron is another solidly written depiction of rural horror; the setting here is Alaska, where a woman reminisces about the unexplained disappearance of her father, a mystery that would appear to be answered by a creepy something currently residing in her room.
The impressively researched historical account “May the End be Good” by Tim Lebbon is set during the Norman conquest of England, when rape, murder and cannibalism were constants. This allows for vampires to reside comfortably, and make themselves known to the story’s monk protagonist in unexpected forms.
One of the book’s most unique takes on the vampire myth occurs in “Paper Cuts” by Gary A. Braunbeck, about centuries-old bloodsuckers turned into sentient books, although the effect is lessened by a lame ending involving an anti-Semitic criminal getting his just desserts. Equally underwhelming is “On the Dark Side of Sunlight Basin” by Michael Koryta, which is taken up largely with a woman being chased through the wilderness by a smooth-talking vamp right out of Hollywood central casting.
“The Neighbors” by Sherrilyn Kenyon is a throwback to horror tales of old, with a fun twist ending capping an otherwise clichéd account of a boy harboring suspicions about his new neighbors. “Blood” by Robert Shearman is about a British teacher in Paris, together with a girlfriend who happens to be underage--and a you-know-what, a fact revealed in perhaps the premiere depiction of blood eating. The set-up of Brian Keene’s “The Last Supper,” involving a lonely vampire hitchhiker, is pretty standard, but its final pages are quite effective, in which said vamp meets his latest victim in a surprisingly touching yet quite relentless denouement.
“What Kept You So Long?” by John Ajvide Lindqvist is an absorbing account of a vampirized truck driver who makes it clear that “there is nothing romantic about my infection.” He eventually meets a woman who happens to also be a vampire, with fateful results. “Mother” by Joe McKinney pivots on a series of child murders thought to be committed by the mythical figure of the chupacabra…but of course they aren’t, as a ghost-chaser learns while investigating the killings. Anther mythologically based vampire appears in “Separator” by Rio Youers, set in a Filipino village where an American developer learns of the folkloric figure of the vampiric Aswang…which of course turns out to be not so folkloric after all. This tale, I should add, has an unusually high sexual content in addition to its splatterpunk excesses (sample: “She chewed off his withered penis and swallowed it…She gobbled his testicles, then thrust her hands into the wound between his legs and tore upward, unzipping him to the sternum”).
In short, there’s something for everyone in these pages. No, this isn’t the greatest anthology I’ve ever read, but I promise it will keep you occupied, and do so with a welcome absence of mushy stuff.