Ahh, vampires! Seriously, who doesn't love them? They have this alluring sensuality to them. Either that or they're down-right vicious. Needless to say, that the vampire has undergone a transformation as of late. They are no longer that alluring (to me anyway) and definitely not vicious. Not only have the Twilight books skewed the vision of the brutal and vicious vampire, it has made them sparkle. This is atrocious. Vampires aren't supposed to sparkle! They're supposed to kill you or turn you. Not walk along professing their "love" for a mortal. (Although, Edward was controlling as old-fashioned vampires are, so there's that). It's not only the Twilight series which has changed the vampire. Buffy (as much as I loved the show), took the award for the most angsty vampire with Angel. Whoever heard of a vampire with a soul before that? Then, they go and give awesomely vicious and brutal Spike a soul, too! Gah! But I'm happy to say that Dracula's Guest takes us back to the glory days where vampires were evil, not pretty boys with angst to rival that of teenage girls.
So, okay, these vampires aren't like those vampires in the film 30 Days of Night (weren't those vampires just scary as all hell?), but they're still pretty creepy. Dracula's Guest is an anthology of classic, victorian, vampire stories. Granted, I haven't read every single story, yet (I like to dip into short stories rather than read them in one go), but I've read more than half of them and most of them are pretty damn great. At first I thought I'd have trouble reading these stories since they are classics and those are sometimes pretty dry, but they ended up being page-turners. So much that I ended up reading way into the night without realizing it and then had to watch Andy Richter Controls the Universe to get vampire thoughts out of my head (which didn't really work considering that as soon as I was drifting off, my smoke alarm went off, for no apparent reason, and I jumped up and looked out the window to make sure there wasn't a creepy, pallid, face peering into mine. There wasn't, FYI).
I have to say that my favorites (so far) have to be The Family of Vourdalak by Alexsei Tolstoy and Wake Not the Dead by Johann Ludwig Tieck. The first just has the creepiest vampire who would look into his family's windows with a, you guessed it, creepy, pallid, face. Wake Not the Dead had the most vicious, manipulative, and FEMALE vampire. Add in numerous people telling the douche-bag husband "wake not the dead" and you have a story that's all types of win. Plus, there are numerous "true stories" that just really make the anthology not only scary, but interesting because you get to see what vampire customs (the garlic, the whole "they must be welcomed in" theory, etc.) started where or how they started.
So, again, while I haven't finished every single story in Dracula's Guest, the good ones seem to outweight the clunkers from what I have read. And I for one rejoice in the return of the viciousness of vampires. The angsty ones can just take a hike and take there melodramatic and pathetic girlfriends with them.
Edited to add that I actually finished the whole anthology today (a mere day after submitting my partial review; so much for dipping into it occasionally) and while I liked the first half better than the second half, I still think that the four star rating should stand. The stories that I thought were particular gems were What Was It? (Though not really a vampire story, I just thought it was weird and bizzare), Good Lady Ducayne (while not scary at all, it really was interesting and I liked that there were parallels between this story and the Elizabeth Bathory history), and And the Creature Came In (I don't know what it is with vampires and windows, but I don't think I'll ever look out the window with a sense of comfort ever again). I didn't really find any stories that I clicked with in Part III, but I think that's because there were only four of them while there were more in the previous parts. But still really great anthology and I have no doubt that I'll re-read my favorites when Halloween rolls around.