Friday, December 23, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula

After 25 years of reading and collecting vampire books, I have a pretty narrow definition of what I consider 'essential' in a collection. Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition is one of these essential books.

Over the past few decades there have been numerous books that analyze, discuss and annotate Dracula, but none come this close to giving you true insight into Bram Stoker's thought process as he developed the novel. Eighteen-Bisang and Miller decipher Stoker's messy and often cryptic handwriting from his original research and plot notes, presenting it alongside facsimiles of the actual notes held in a collection at the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Thirteen Years Later by Jasper Kent

Thirteen years ago, in 1812, Captain Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov fought alongside a group of twelve highly-skilled Wallachians who called themselves the 'Oprichniki,' savage mercenaries who helped halt the advancement of French troops into Russia. But Danilov soon discovered that the group were actually 'voordalak' (vampires) and, believing them to be a greater threat to Russia and mankind itself, he systematically hunted and destroyed each and everyone one of them.

To his surprise, the leader of the group--Iuda--actually turned out to be human, although he was equally as vicious as his undead companions. Thirteen years later, in 1825, the war is over and Danilov continues working as a spy, trying to protect his beloved tsar Alexandr I from an uprising he's facing from within his own army, as well as a secretive group of influential Russians who want to see their leader dead.

The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith

Princess Adele of Alexandria will be a key player in humanity's struggle to finally destroy the Vampire Empire, and reclaim the whole of the world for their own. Her upcoming wedding to Senator Clark of America will unite their nations, resulting in an allied war machine that will surely be powerful enough to defeat the vampires once and for all. But while abroad on a diplomatic tour, things go awry for Adele after she is attacked by a horde of vampires, yet her capture is thwarted by the mysterious Greyfriar, a legendary fighter from Northern Europe whom she had previously believed was only a made-up character from wild adventure stories. Thanks to her own fighting skills attained from years of combat training, Adele manages to hold her own alongside the powerful folk hero, but the two cannot hold back the vampires forever. She soon finds herself captured and imprisoned in the heart of bloodsucker territory, and although the senile monarch is barely aware of her existence, his two sons--the evil Cesare and his more moderate sibling Gareth--each have their own ideas as to what to do with the Princess.

Twelve by Jasper Kent

Captain Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov is part of an elite group Russian spies, working to stem the tide of Napoleon's army as it pillages its way across the Russian landscape en route to Moscow. He soon finds himself fighting alongside a group of twelve highly-skilled Wallachians who call themselves the "Oprichniki," savage fighters who prefer close combat and only work at night -- and who claim they can halt the invasion of the French troops. 

Although Danilov questions how only twelve men can turn the tide of the war, he soon discovers just how efficient these mercenaries are, but begins to have doubts about the motives of this secretive group. But after discovering the horrible truth about the Oprichniki, Danilov decides that his new allies are actually a threat to all of mankind, and it's left up to him to rid the world of these legendary creatures of nightmares.

Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries Part 1

Sisters Helen and Lara Baxter have typical sibling rivalry, quickly and effectively set up within the first scene featuring the two, in the indie horror flick Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries, Part I (now re-titled Bloodborne). Goth-chick Lara (Eilis Cahill) worships at her Anne Rice altar while over-achieving Helen (Devon Bailey) gets all the school awards -- and all the boys. Lara wishes her sister was dead, and soon that wish is granted.

But Helen returns as a vampire, and the film then tells the story of a devoted mother (JoJo Hristova) and the rest of her clan as they cope with a family member who has returned from the grave.

In the Footsteps of Dracula by Steven P. Unger

While reading In the Footsteps of Dracula, it felt as if author Steven P. Unger was sitting in the same room, speaking to me with great enthusiasm of his journey through England and Romania. However, as in most cases when someone describes their favourite trip, there are times when they tend to go on a tangent here and there, repeat themselves a little, and maybe show one too many photographs. Such is the case in this book, but for me, that's what makes it much more personal and all the more interesting.

More than just a travel guide, Footsteps is indeed a personal journey, following the author as he tracks down sites relating to both the fictional Count Dracula and the very real Vlad Dracula. From the shores of Whitby to the mountains of Poenari, we get a real feel for the people and places along the way, and although Unger's journey at times may have been rough-going, we get a sense that it was a trip worth taking.

Incarnadine by R. H. Greene

Having read and reviewed numerous vampire novels over the past decade, I was getting used to the light reading that these books have become; something to leaf through on the subway or over lunch, with characters and plots quickly forgotten once the last page was finished.

Granted, there are a number of good reads among the stacks of mediocrity, but I find that in general, vampire stories of late seem have the same simple characters, predictable plots, topped with a mix of blood, sex, and violence, adding gloss to stories that are barely worth telling. Surprised was I, then, when I read Incarnadine: The True Memoirs of Count Dracula: Volume One. Not only did it challenge my perception of the most iconic character in vampire literature, it also reassured my faith that there is still room for true works of art within this genre.

Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready

Ciara Griffin comes from a family of con artists, at the top of her game up until she decided to live straight and get a real job. Desperate for a summer internship so she can complete College, Ciara manages to land a position at local radio station WMMP. Broadcasting syndicated talk shows and paid programs during the day, it's only at night when the station truly "comes alive," when a group of eccentric DJs play music from the forties through to the nineties. Not only do they know their genres inside out, they seem to fully embrace the time in which the music was released, using lingo and dressing accordingly, as if they were scooped out of that time period into the present day.

Which is essentially the case. You see, every DJ is in fact a vampire, stuck forever within the cultural time period in which they were turned. Aside from following standard vampire conventions regarding sunlight, crosses, etc, these bloodsuckers also have great difficulty in dealing with the modern world. So WMMP is a perfect fit; they can be anchored in the present, while essentially remaining in the time period in which they are most comfortable.

Staked by J. F. Lewis

In a genre filled to capacity with romanticized vampires, Staked -- by new author J.F. Lewis -- offers a distinct alternative in his anti-hero Eric, a vampire who's a bit of a jerk. He turns his faithful girlfriend into a vampire, only to dump her in favor of her younger sister; he's a smart ass strip club owner who cares little about the people around him and only wants to be left alone; and he isn't shy about killing his own kind, let alone the other supernatural creatures that inhabit the locale known as Void City.

The story opens with Eric, who suffers from rage blackouts and general memory problems, unaware of why he has just killed a fellow vampire. The only thing he can deduce is that it was a "Master" vampire, a level in power below him -- he's known as a "Vlad." Soon a werewolf enters the scene and, being a natural enemy to the vampire, tries to destroy him. But he fails, and his death ultimately leads to an escalating series of revenge killings back and forth between the two groups.

The Vampire Survival Guide by Scott Bowen

If vampires truly existed, then wouldn't it make sense that someone would write a guide to assist in the war against these undead? That's the premise of The Vampire Survival Guide by Scott Bowen, published by Skyhorse Publishing, the company also behind The Zen of Zombie.

As a pure survival guide, this book covers everything necessary -- how to detect the undead, how to arm and defend yourself, and how to ensure you don't become infected and join their ranks (think of it as collected methodologies in part gleaned from various vampire books and movies). That's only a sampling of what you'll find inside, and such useful knowledge comes with a price. At 260 pages, some content does seem like filler; it could have been a much more enjoyable read at a slimmer 200 pages.

Rick Mercer Report: The Paperback Book

Rick Mercer is a well-known Canadian comedian, political satirist and news junkie, having co-created and performed on This Hour Has 22 Minutes as well as the eponymous The Rick Mercer Report.

One feature of both shows are his 3-4 minute one-camera rants against the Canadian government and parliamentary system. Rick Mercer Report: The Book contains a selection of these rants, as well as excerpts from his interviews with politicians. Short comments are also included to tie it all together.

Recommended for fans of the RMR, as well those interested in sharp, witty political commentary.

5 out of 5

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Canada (September 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385665199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385665193