Vampires are no longer terrifying creatures of the night. We dress up as them, fantasise about them and use their clichés to learn to count. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s quite exhilarating when I get to read about murderous, disturbing vampires. Watkins Publishing allowed me to do this with the anthology Back in Time to the First Darkness: Vampires- The Original Stories. They present the classic vampire stories:
Wake Not the Dead by Johann Ludwig Tieck
The Vampyre by John William Polidori
The Mysterious Stranger by Anonymous
Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stroker
Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Horla by Guy De Maupassant
The Room in the Tower by E.F. Benson.
Most of the stories belonged in the anthology, except for The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire. While it was entertaining, it didn’t actually contain a vampire. I know it shows how vampires in literature inspired non-horror writers, but it was still disappointing. Maybe if it was one of the earliest stories, it would have made sense but this was 1924. Vampirism in literature was nothing new at this point. I just think they sacrificed a really interesting story for this. The same thing can be said about Dracula’s Guest (but it’s Dracula so it had to be included) and The Room in the Tower (which was just ok).
Most of the stories are pretty good. They vary in writing style so you’ll find at least one that you like and they all have a classic ghoulish feel to them, which you’d expect from vampire stories. I liked most characters, but would have loved a bigger variety in the plots. Then again, maybe there just weren’t any vampire stories from the vampire’s perspective.
The flow of the book was great. It starts with an introduction, which gives us basic information, and proceeds with the stories chronologically with a few exceptions. For example, Carmilla was written before Dracula’s Guest but was placed after it. It works because Carmilla was the longest story in the book and if it was chronologically, it would have been after The Mysterious Stranger, another long story. By having Dracula’s Guest between these two stories, we were given a chance to breathe and have a break from heavy reading.
There was one instance where it didn’t work. As I said earlier, I would have left out The Room in the Tower or at least moved it. The Horla would have been a better ending. It can be linked to Wake Not the Dead a lot more than The Room in the Tower is.
Many countries have their own version of vampires so they should have their own stories. Right? Unfortunately, they only stories included were written by English, German or French writers. Even if there was just one story featuring a Vetala or a Manananggal, it would help present the vampire culture as universal and not just a western idea. This would have made the collection even stronger.
This anthology was a great read. The stories were fascinating and it gave me a lot of knowledge of the vampire genre in a way that wasn’t boring. However, due to a few stories that didn’t appeal to me and the fact that it was primarily western-male centric writers, I’ll give it 8.4/10. Discussion Point: Who is your favourite vampire and if you had the option of becoming one, would you?