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Blood and Other Cravings

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  • Posted October 3, 2011

    A must read for fans of dark fantasy.

    Blood and Other Cravings edited by Ellen Datlow is an extraordinary tour de force of dark fantasy featuring fifteen original stories and two reprints based on the vampire trope. But don't expect to see Count Dracula in this gathering of darkness, nor any of the usual suspects or stereotypes found in most vampire tales. Ms. Datlow's vampires, human or inhuman, are those whom we might encounter in our day to day activities (or, as the case might prove, night to night) because they feed on what drives the victim's heart, mind, and soul. Readers of the supernatural can take heart, however, as the supernatural element is extant throughout this emotionally eviscerating anthology guaranteed to disturb.

    All seventeen tales are excellent examples of fine writing and story-telling at their best, but three stories stand out for this reader: "The Third Always Beside You" by John Langan, which tells the tale of family secrets kept and a horrible discovery made; "All You Can Do Is Breathe" by Kaaron Warren, which tells of an otherworldly encounter and the inexorable dissipation of what drives us and makes us human; and "Mrs. Jones" by Carol Emshwiller, a particularly nasty usurper tale that first appeared in OMNI magazine in 1993.

    The rest of the stories according to TOC are: "Needles" by Elizabeth Bear, which tells a slightly more conventional vamp tale but with a vicious twist; "Baskerville's Midgets" by Reggie Oliver (a reprint from Madder Mysteries, Ex Occidente, 2009) which offers some much needed whimsical relief, even though the conclusion proves blood curdling; "Blood Yesterday, Blood Tomorrow" by Richard Bowes, a story about addiction in which it is difficult for the reader to decide just who the real parasite might be; "X for Demetrious" by Steve Duffy, a tale that brought to mind the 1940s film The Mask of Dimitrios starring Zachary Scott and Peter Lorre, if only because of the name in the title, and the writing style in which the story is told, describing the poison of prejudice and obsession taking center stage in a man's life (if you have not seen The Mask of Dimitrios I highly recommend it); "Keeping Corky" by Melanie Tem, a tale of motherly love that will make your skin crawl; "Shelf Life" by Lisa Tuttle, which describes the parasitic nature of dreams unrealized;"Caius" by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg, which blurs the boundaries between delusion and science; "Sweet Sorrow" by Barbara Roden, a tightly crafted piece that tells of loss and grief and those who feed on tragedy; "First Breath" by newcomer Nicole J. Leboeuf, which tells a nuanced usurper tale that leads the reader to ponder creation - a writer to watch; "Toujours" by the talented Kathe Koja, a chilling tale that borrows from Pygmalion and Galatea; "Miri" by Steve Rasnic Tem, a creepy piece about a family man and his past relationship with an anorexic woman who disappears from his life - or does she; "Bread and Water" by Michael Cisco, which informs us of the agonies of withdrawal and transformation; "Mulberry Boys" by Margo Lanagan, a disturbing tale about greed and dehumanization; and last but not least, "The Siphon" by Laird Barron, a writer whose penchant for making readers squirm will not disappoint in this nuanced tale about corporate greed and the supernatural converging to feed in a most unusual manner.

    Highly recommended reading!

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