Edge, p/b, £9.36
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
There have been anthologies of vampire stories before, there will undoubtedly be others. There are readers who will lap then up, whatever their content; others will shy away simply because vampires in recent years have become a mite too cuddly. They have lost their bite. The question is, then, why should the jaundiced reader bother with this volume. There are a number of reasons, but most important, these vampires all have the same agenda – survival. The way they do that best is by treating humans as prey. These creatures are as varied as their authors but are all very dangerous.
Flicking down the contents list, the British reader will recognise very few of the authors. This is a book produced in Canada and most of the authors are Canadian. If anything this is an advantage as there are no preconceptions when coming to their work. The editor, Nancy Kilpatrick, considers the future of the vampire race and has divided the volume into three sections – Pre-apocalypse, Post-apocalypse and New World Order.
In the first section, the eight stories have an alternative present – where vampires are known to exist – or a near future scenario. They start relatively gently and gradually get bloodier. The first in the section is “The List” by Kelley Armstrong. Zoë knows she is the only vampire living in Toronto but an anthropologist has claimed that there are 24. At the end of his lecture on vampire lore he is stalked by a Goth demanding to know why she isn’t on the list and Zoë has to intervene. This story is slight, fun and a lead in to the darker ones where the vampires always live up to their heritage. Some do have a kind of compassion. In “Six Underground” by Michael Lorenson, the vampire, Connor, gets himself onto the jury of a murder trial. His intention is to persuade the rest of the jury that the girl the defendants killed was not a vampire – as they are already dead, vampires cannot he murdered. “Toothless” by David Beynon takes us into the near future when the ozone layer is virtually extinct. The focus here shifts away from an individual vampire onto the cops who are trying to find who is killing the vampires and stealing their teeth.
In the eight stories in the second, Post-apocalypse, section, there has been some kind of apocalyptic disaster causing the collapse of civilisation. As a result, vampires are either in the ascendant or the conflict between them and the human race is one of survival for one or the other. Problems can arise when vampires have dwindling sources of prey. An example is “Chelsea Mourning” by David Tocher. When the vampires awake from their twenty year hibernation they find the world devastated by a huge meteor strike and few humans. They intend to capture one alive to lead them to more. They have the misfortune to pick on Chelsea, who is a telepath. “Survival of the Fittest” by Leanne Tremblay has a desperate vampire colony. Most surviving humans are poor specimens so when Charlie turns up claiming to live well outside the colony they believe they have found a new food source, especially as Charlie seems able to cope with the radiation coming through the ozone stripped atmosphere. Evolution, though has favoured the humans rather than the vampires. “Blood That Burns So Bright” is another turning point story in which a human girl is a cage fighter up against the best of the vampires. If she wins her fight, she will show that vampires can be beaten.
The final section of six stories takes vampires out into deep space. John Shirley’s “Soulglobe” has them hidden from sight. The Soulglobe to the human population is an exotic place to which the terminally ill can go to die. When Frank takes his wife there, he has second thoughts and uncovers what is really happening. These vampires are trying to survive by misusing human concerns about death. In Tanith Lee’s “Beyond The Sun” the vampires, because of their qualities, are sent out ahead of the humans to create a new world on which they can live. This is a beautiful science fiction story combining myth and technology tied together with the romance of the vampire life and the love of another being. Love also plays a part in “Beacons Among The Stars” by Anne Mok in which the more adventurous of a vampire pair heads out among the stars on the early colony ships. Later, his lover follows in a desperate bid to find him.
There are a huge range of stories here, each focusing on different aspects of vampire lore and stretching the boundaries. That is what makes this a good book to pursue and dip into.