Published by Tor Books
What is a vampire? Is it an undead creature from Transylvania who bites people on the neck? Is it a glittering douchebag who only feeds off deer while dating boring teenage girls? Somewhere in between, moaning about being eternal in Louisiana?
Blood and Other Cravings says yes and no. This collection features short tales about, as the name implies, vampires and parasites who crave blood…and some who crave other things.
This collection is a success because of Ellen Datlow. She strikes a balance between traditional and completely outside the norm vampire tales that keeps the reader moving from story to story, anxious to see the next interpretation of the vampire concept.
Stories like “Needles” and “Sweet Sorrow” take the more traditional path, although in widely diverse ways. The latter features seemingly bland and banal neighbors roving from neighborhood to neighborhood over time, eating children, while the former takes the gritty Tarantino path with modern bloodsuckers roaming the desert Southwest getting by one kill at a time.
Others, like “First Breath” and “Mrs. Jones” are just barely within the framework set forth by the title. “First Breath” is almost fantasy or science fiction in its tale of strange body-swapping creatures. “Mrs. Jones” tells a quirky tale of two spinster sisters and the strange being that prompts one to peel away and attempt to have her own life.
The collection is balanced very well with only a couple of drab stories in the midst. The ultra-brief “Caius” doesn’t have enough space to tell a tale and not enough power to make the short-short form worthwhile. “Toujours” is just an odd little story that may have a connection to the overall theme, but if so, I missed it. I also missed the point to it entirely. It may be my failing, but it is the one story in the collection that strikes me as an outright failure.
While no one tale strikes me as a blatant standout, Datlow clearly knows how to close a collection, and Laird Barron’s “The Siphon” does that in fine fashion. Taking a unique and gruesome spin on traditional man-eating vampires, this tale of intrigue finishes the book with a dark and bloody exclamation point.
Blood and Other Cravings should be a strong buy for fans of vampire fiction, if only because of the clever paths Datlow and the writers take in working their way through the genre. I guarantee there are some surprises waiting for you that will make you ask yourself that question all over again: What is a vampire?
3 1/2 out of 5