Monday, April 11, 2011

Teeth: Vampire Tales - edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   Sink your teeth into these bite-sized tales exploring the intersections among the living, dead, and undead. Features stories by Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, Cassandra Clare, Garth Nix, and many more.

And here's what I thought:   Um... ok.  That little summary doesn't say much --- other than mentioning some of my favorite authors!!  When I saw this had stories from Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, and Kaaron Warren, I was completely intrigued.  And I was in the mood for some stories.   The nice thing about a book of short stories is that if you aren't wild about one of them, you're sure to find at least one that you love.   And that's what I found here.   I'm not going to do a summary/review of each story, but I want to mention a few that really stood out to me.   The one thing I'll mention before I start on the stories is that the introduction, written by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, is really interesting.  They discuss the popularity of vampire stories, but also how vampires in literature have evolved over the years.   Really a cool way to begin this collection.

So, on to some of the stories that I really liked (although, seriously, I really liked just about every story here -- but I would be going on and on to talk about each of them).

The first one, Things to Know About Being Dead by Genevieve Valentine, brought in some Asian culture to the vampire mythos, which was something new for me.  The main character's grandmother knows her granddaughter is a vampire, but she helps her, instead of shunning her.  As for the vampire, her observations on being undead, and still going to her classes really make her a pretty sympathetic character.    This was a pretty thought-provoking story.

LOVED Delia Sherman's story, Flying, about a girl who used to be a circus performer with her family before she got sick.   When she discovers a small, old-fashioned circus coming to her town, she begs her parents to go to a performance .... and enters a world where many things are not at all what they seem.   I have always had a bit of a fascination with the circus, which I'm sure is partly why I loved this story.   But, the main character is interesting, and I thought the story was really original.

The List of Definite Endings by Kaaron Warren was another story that really stuck in my head.   In this one, the vampire is somewhat solitary, not fitting in well with her vampire friends.  When she meets Ken, a young man who works in a morgue, she strikes up an unlikely friendship.  There's a lot in this story about reflections on past decisions, and life lived -- really interesting, and thought-provoking (and a bit sad at the end).    Kaaron Warren is an author I discovered through Angry Robot Publishers, and I was excited to see that she had a story in this collection.

Neil Gaiman's story is... a poem.  And quite cool.

Overall, I liked most of the stories, although I admit to skim-reading the three that didn't wow me.    This is a great collection, with a wide variety of stories written by some talented authors.     

First sentences from some of the stories:   "As it turns out, if a person dies badly, sometimes the soul can't escape the body and will have to feed off the living forever.  Of course, I only find this out after Madison Gardner offers me a ride home in her dad's Beemer after six shots of coconut rum and ends up shoving the car through a tree."  (Things to Know About Being Dead by Genevieve Valentine)

"Sometimes, partying felt like punishment.  Claudia hated large groups of people, vampires included.  They had secret jokes she didn't get, and the conversation always moved too fast for her."  (The List of Definite Endings by Kaaron Warren)

"They both smiled at each other, the way that best friends do.  Their smiled revealed different things.  Gina's teeth were gray and almost translucent.  They looked soft and loose.  Amy's teeth gleamed bright and white even in the dimly lit room.  And of course there were the canines.  Long and pointy.  Hollow at the tip, perfectly made for the sucking of blood."  (Best Friends Forever by Cecil Castelluci)

Thoughts on the cover:  Definitely eye-catching, with the girl who looks like she's covering her mouth (is she a vampire or not?).   The image of the girl is cool, and the font of the title definitely conveys the vampire theme.


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