My Top Ten … Modern Vampire Novels

If this were ‘My Top Ten … Vampire Novels’ I would have to include classics such as Carmilla and Dracula, but I may as well just refer people to David Stuart Davies’s Children of the Night: Classic Vampire Stories. I’m making my life easier and sticking to modern vampire novels, where ‘modern’ essentially means 1976 and after.

If this were ‘My Top Ten … Most Influential Modern Vampire Novels’ then I would probably have to include the Twilight and Sookie Stackhouse series, and maybe Vampire Diaries. I haven’t read these, although I have seen bits on TV. They have their good points, but ultimately they, like most paranormal romance, are very focussed on the vampires as gorgeous, sexy boyfriends. I have nothing against romance in vampire novels, but if the romance takes precedence over the vampiric elements, then it doesn’t work for me.

There are other excellent modern vampire novels, of course. I haven’t read them all. Many of these I haven’t read for years, and so I’m rather vague on details, sorry. As and when I re-read them, I’ll update this page.

Here, in order of publication, and almost the order in which I read them, are my top ten modern vampire novels:

Interview with the Vampire
Anne Rice
★★★★★
Published 1976

I don’t know what the first vampire book I ever read was, but Interview with the Vampire certainly stands out. Here were vampires who weren’t creatures of horror to be feared, but rather beautiful, elegant, powerful creatures with real character, vampires you could imagine being, and love being. It opened up a whole new world of imagination. The sequels were good also, but Interview with the Vampire is the only one I have re-read, and the only one I’d care to re-read now.

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, goodreads, Anne Rice’s website

Note: I have decided not to include Whitley Strieber’s The Hunger (published 1980) in this list, although I do consider it a five-star book, mainly because I love the film rather than the book (see why). Interview with the Vampire presents a similar dilemma, but I loved the book long before the (excellent) film was made.

The Vampire Tapestry
Suzy McKee Charnas
★★★★★
Published December 31st 1980

I couldn’t honestly say whether I read this before or after Interview with the Vampire, but the name Suzy McKee Charnas is one I have never forgotten, even if my memories of her book had faded. I really want to read it again…

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, goodreads, Suzy McKee Charnas’s website

Live Girls
Ray Garton
★★★★★
Published January 1st 1987

This is one of those books that I read as a teenager and has stuck in my mind ever since. Almost every vampire book I have read since, no matter how good, has failed to capture the raw blood/sex/love/horror blend of this. It was good to read it again recently.

I haven’t read the sequel, Night Life.

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, goodreads, Ray Garton’s website

Sunglasses After Dark
Nancy A. Collins
★★★★★
Published 1989

This is the urban fantasy that started it all. Sunglasses and its sequels present a world full of all manner of demonic and angelic creatures, and Sonja Blue is the vampire seeking vengeance against her maker. The first two books (Sunglasses After Dark and In the Blood) are an excellent pair, but I feel the series loses something after that. Both on my re-read list.

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, goodreads, True Blue: The official Sonja Blue blog

Suckers
Anne Billson
★★★★★
Published 1993

I have the 1996 edition of this. I suspect it was in a bargain bookstore, which is a shame because I would love to have discovered it three years before… The main character, Dora, is cynical and vindictive, and within five pages of my third re-read I am grinning. I love this book.

From the back cover: A blackly funny vampire novel set in upwardly-mobile London, Suckers takes a caustic bite out of the ‘greed is good’ generation.

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, goodreads, Suckers post on Anne Billson’s blog

Lost Souls
Poppy Z. Brite
★★★★★
Published September 10th 1993

I have completely forgotten the plot of this, but I remember that it was intense. Poppy Z. Brite doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects. Ever since reading it, Lost Souls has stuck in my mind as the modern vampire novel.

Given the themes of this blog, I really should give Lost Souls a proper review. Soon, …

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, goodreads, Poppy Z. Brite’s official website

Necroscope
Brian Lumley
★★★★★
Published December 1st 1994

This is a long series of books, and I read only the first seven or so, but it’s full of astonishing and well-developed ideas, and the vampires are truly terrifying. These are vampires as creatures of creeping, mutating horror.

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, goodreads, Brian Lumley’s website

The Historian
Elizabeth Kostova
★★★★★
Published February 6th 2006

This is about the search for Dracula, but it’s a very literary quest, cleverly told by different characters in different places (notably Istanbul and Bulgaria) in different time periods through the use of historical accounts and journal entries. This is very much a book for people who love books.

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, goodreads, Elizabeth Kostova’s website

Let the Right One In
John Ajvide Lindqvist
★★★★★
Published August 2nd 2007

Rather than a grand castle in the forest, and a tall, elegant count with persuasive eyes, Let the Right One In is set on a council estate in a suburb of Stockholm. Oskar, the protagonist, is just a twelve-year-old boy caught in an escalating cycle of bullying and retaliation after he makes friends with Eli who moves in next door. Eli’s vampiric need for blood sets in motion a chain of horrific events.

This book is at once sweet and horrific, and is brilliantly written in terms of character and setting. Already it has been adapted into two very similar but excellent movies: Låt den rätte komma in and Let Me In.

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, goodreads, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s website

Skarlet
Thomas Emson
★★★★★
Published March 2nd 2009

Skarlet is the first in a trilogy of books about a vampire apocalypse. It starts small, with a nightclub in London full of people poisoned with vampiric essence. Doorman Jake Lawton gets the blame, but he’s a veteran of the Iraq war and is determined to uncover the truth. Soon he, and the city, have to deal with an outbreak of vampires, and a conspiracy of corrupt authorities seeking to raise a vampire god.

It’s a very tense read, almost impossible to put down. Krimson, on the other hand, suffers a little from sequel-itis. (We need bigger monsters! And more of them!) It’s still a tense read, but the tension doesn’t come quite so naturally from the setting. As with all apocalyptic stories, the gradual destruction of society is far more interesting at the beginning when the setting is more familiar and the events more real to us. I haven’t got round to Kardinal yet, but it’s on my reading list.

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, goodreads, Thomas Emson’s website

Coda

Thought I’d add links to some other Top Ten … Vampire Books type lists:

If you have links to other good lists, or just want to state your own Top 10 list, leave a comment…

About Frank

A Sci-Fi & Fantasy author and lyrical poet with a mild obsession for vampires, succubi, goddesses and Supergirl.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Vampires and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to My Top Ten … Modern Vampire Novels

  1. Rita Curry says:

    Francis, you look to young, to have read as many books, as you have. To be honest, I used to hate reading. When, in school, I ony read what I had to. Something changed, when I got older, & now I’m looking for more places to put, the books I read. I don’t read real fast, for going back, & rereading, just to make sure, I read it right. I know, it sounds crazy, but then again, but then again, I am. Has to something wrong, because of the kind of books, I do read.

  2. Frank says:

    I was a voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy from an early age, and later a selection of crime/detective novels authors. I don’t get as much time to read these days.

  3. I love Anne Rice. One of my favourite classics is Sheridan le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’.

  4. Don’t know that one, Frank, is it bad?

    • Frank says:

      I’m sorry – I don’t really understand the question.

      By the way, have you ever read Liz Jensen’s My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time? Nothing to do with vampires, but it’s one of my favourite books.

      • Lol, Frank, I hadn’t yet followed the link, so I wondered if the ‘adventures in the library’ was some modern version that was bad? Seems I misunderstood. Never read Liz Jensen, sadly…I seem to be doing so much beta reading and research of late I don’t explore the books on offer the way I used to…

  5. InfiniteZip says:

    Ooooh lestat, Rice rocks my friend:) following:) and thanks for your follow too:) no fangs on the smiley:)

  6. Barb says:

    This summer I read the Vampire Elements Encyclopedia and saw mention of some vampires books. I jotted down some titles and downloaded the Kindle samples… of the ones you mention I’ve read only Sunglasses After Dark (besides Ann Rice, of course, but I read only Interview, the Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Darkness). I didn’t download the full book! 😉 I guess they didn’t catch me – none of those samples felt interesting to go ahead and buy them…
    I also read the “classics” for the first time – namely Dracula. I started on Varkey the Vampire, but couldn’t finish it, too much ejaculating instead of exclaiming! 😉
    How do you feel about vampires in other countries/eras besides Victorian London and contemporary settings? (I’m sure you know why I ask this question, but I’d love to hear the answer)

    • Frank says:

      I could probably write multiple blog posts on this, but…

      1. Vampires in recent history, i.e., 1400s onward. These can be done very well, since they draw on fairly well established history and mythology. In fact, I prefer to see some exploration of history as part of this, and find it particularly frustrating to see plots along the lines of: “I was born in 1550 and, well, nothing terribly interesting happened for four hundred years, until such-and-such happened and I met so-and-so.” Utterly pointless!

      2. Vampires from ancient history. Difficult. The author has to be willing to really embrace ancient history in order to make it work, otherwise it starts to feel like pure fantasy without the suspension of disbelief. Our relationship with ancient history is also, I think, more intimate than our relationship with recent history. Maria Dahvana Headley has a demonic/vampiric Cleopatra that’s well written, but I gave up halfway through because my own shady understanding of Rome and Cleopatra conflicted with the story. Skarlet, which I mention in this blog post, has Alexander the Great in a heroic role fighting vampires, but it’s just a small part of the story. Georgiana Derwent’s Cavaliers trilogy strays back to Roman times, again as a small part in a larger story. Historical research is key to making it work.

      3. Vampires from elsewhere. Well, depends. Chinese vampires are unattractive grave creatures. Japanese vampires are sad and lonely but brilliant. African vampires were born of white medicine. So vampires vary dramatically in concept. The European idea of vampires ranges from people who refuse to stay dead to vile supernatural horror, and thanks to Anne Rice we now have the vampire-as-tortured-soul, which is what speaks to me. But vampire-as-romantic-hero, which seems increasingly common, doesn’t work for me unless there’s real darkness to contend with.

      4. Vampires in pure fantasy. Sure, why not. I’ve done it myself. The question that needs to be answered is why they exist at all, because vampires are such an Earth-folklore concept that they can seem very out of place in a non-Earth fantasy.

      5. Vampires in science fiction. I’ve written vampires in a post-apocalyptic future Earth, so that’s one way to do it. There are also a tonne of cool space-vampire stories – but these are an extension of pure fantasy (see No. 4) but explanations are more likely to be technological rather than magical.

      I don’t really know whether I’ve answered your question, though.

      • Barb says:

        yes, through and through! 🙂 Thanks! (sorry for commenting so late on this old post of yours, blame it on WordPress that still has it in your best posts!)
        I won’t bother you with a shameless self-promotion, you come to my blog, so when you want to try my vampires, you know where I am! 🙂

      • Frank says:

        This is the most popular of my posts, and I love getting comments on any of my posts, so thank you! 🙂

  7. I have to say I’m a Rice fan too. I haven’t read any of the others. Would you recommend The Vampire Tapestry for another trip into the genre?

  8. Great list! I’ve read some of these and I’m intrigued with some of the ones I didn’t read. Thanks!

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