Dracula's Guest: And Other Victorian Vampire Stories Paperback – Jun 22 2010
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“Sims, editor of this brilliant collection, gathers stories of the undead written during what he loosely terms the Victorian era…. the bloodsuckers presented here are predators who can be turned away only by Christian symbols, garlic, and little else. Do not expect sparkling Twilight vampires or even the good-guy types that sometimes appeared in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchise. An excellent addition to popular fiction and literature collections.” ―Library Journal (starred review)
“Dracula's Guest invokes the dangerous shadows of Victorian culture, those dark places where passion, terror, pathos, and sorrow mingle and merge. Gathering together canonical works along with less familiar knock-out masterpieces, Michael Sims has produced an anthology designed to keep us all up at night.” ―Maria Tatar, professor and chair of the program in Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University, author of The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales and Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood
“In this fine new anthology, Michael Sims brings to bear his extensive knowledge of Victorian tales and their tellers on the vampire genre. Despite the title, Sims's nets have caught fascinating material that pre-dates Dracula and the Victorians. Some will be familiar (excerpts from works by the Abbé Calmet, Lord Byron, John Polidori, and Varney the Vampire, for example), but other authors and stories will be new to many, revealing an unexpected depth and breadth to the thrall of the undead. With a thoughtful introduction to the volume as well as each story, this book belongs in the crypt of every student of the creatures of the night!” ―Leslie S. Klinger, editor of The New Annotated Dracula and The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes
“Everyone loves a good vampire story, but it takes a true aficionado with an insatiable thirst for knowledge to ferret out the roots of these monsters' enduring appeal. There is no better guide to the natural history and mythology of the Undead than Michael Sims.” ―Jennifer Ouellette, author of The Physics of the Buffyverse and Black Bodies and Quantum Cats
About the Author
Michael Sims is the author of the acclaimed Apollo's Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination, Adam's Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form, and editor of the recent The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime: Con Artists, Burglars, Rogues, and Scoundrels from the Time of Sherlock Holmes. He lives in western Pennsylvania.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I love the introduction to the book, which explains the author's theories, attraction and motivation to collect stories which were written during the 1800s about vampires. He has a neat, dry sense of humor and a nice way with words. I also enjoyed the introductions to the various authors and the times they lived in. They set the tone for the story which followed.
As for the stories themselves, Sims begins with the weaker ones, and builds up to the finest near the end of the book. Because of the introductions, they all have interest, and the finer ones are riveting. Sadly, Stoker's own tale, "Dracula's Guest," belonged somewhere in the middle, not the end. I'm sure he had that honor simply because of his fame.
I enjoyed this book more than I would have thought possible, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys having their flesh crawl on a moonlit, foggy night while they sit by a cozy fire.
The book is broken down into 3 parts: The Roots, The Tree and The Fruit.
Beginning with The Roots, Sims includes authors such as Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens, Antoine Augustin Calmet, George Gordon, Lord Byron, John Polidori, Theophile Gautier and a story attributed to Johann Ludwig Tieck. In the second part, The Tree, authors included are Aleksei Tolstoy, James Malcolm Rymey, Fitz-James O'Brien, Anne Crawford, Emily Gerard, Mary Cholmondeley, Eris, Count Stenbock, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Augustus Hare, F.G. Loring, Hume Nisbet and one story whose author is unknown. The third and final part, The Fruit, includes authors Mary E Wilkins Freeman, M.R.James, Alice and Claude Askew, and Bram Stoker. Michael Sims introduces the book with a story of what led to his ideas for this book.
Sims concludes Dracula's Guest with a listing of bibliography and a detailed list of suggested further readings.
The stories included are for the most part very interesting with the majority of them being very short (as in fewer than 20 pages or so). Sims did a wonderful job of gathering historical information about the authors and presenting it in a way that was not the usual drab or boring manner. I definitely recommend Dracula's Guest to anyone interested in learning more about the progression of vampire stories or those who just love vampires. I found Dracula's Guest to be very informative, interesting and a book that I will re-read again over time.
I won this book in the Goodreads first reads contest.
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.
This is an excellent introduction/compendium of victorian (as well as some pre-victorian and post-victorian) vampire stories.
Michael Sims does a superb job of not only gathering some of the most noteworthy and influential pieces of the genre, but he introduces the work as a whole and each piece with aplomb.
I typically do not read the introduction to a book until after I've read the book (and only then if I feel that it's "worth my time"). I know that this is counter-intuitive, but generally I want to read the work without someone else's opinion about the work first. (I typically do not read reviews until after I've read the book either.)
In this case, however, I read the introduction as it was meant to be read -- first. What a wonderful introduction. I have dog-earred many pages (I know, gasp!) in the intro for me to follow up on and read more about the topic. I also note that Sims explains his choices effectively and intriguingly. I could not wait to get started.
The stories themselves are wonderful. They represent true vampire culture and fears in the earlier times and we are able to see the morphing of the culture of vampire lore.
All in all, excellent choices and excellent work.
I would not recommend this book to people who think that Twilight is the end-all of vampire tales. But for those of you who are interested in the backdrop of current lore, the history, the progression, and are willing to take the time and energy to read victorian style prose... by all means, sink your teeth in...