Vampires, werewolves and ghouls, oh my!

When I lived in South Carolina I frequented a small used bookstore.  It amazed me that the back half of the store was dedicated to Romance: Vampires and Shape shifters predominately.  I had started with Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles years ago, and did like Lestat.  But when I got to Tucson a friend lent me a couple of vampire books.  So I started looking into vampires and their ilk.

Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series is the big teen pull.

As of November 2009, the series has sold over 85 million copies worldwide with translations into at least 38 different languages around the globe.  The four Twilight books have consecutively set records as the biggest selling novels of 2008 on the USA Today Best-Selling Books list and have spent over 235 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list for Children’s Series Books.

In an interview with USA Today, US president Barack Obama said that he and his ten-year-old daughter, Malia, often bond over the Twilight books.

So I read the series.  High school girl, Bella, not only has “normal” kid in love with her, but also vampire, Edward, and werewolf, Jacob.  Her “abnormality” is having immunity to supernatural abilities involving the mind, such as Edward’s mind-reading ability.  Twilight I found imaginative, but by the end of New Moon I was really tired of the constant kissing, and got very bored by Breaking Dawn, even though it finally culminated in sex.  I discovered, however, that not only had my 30-year-old daughter read them, but my son-in-law too!  Here I had thought they’d be novels for the lovelorn teen.

And the movies have done quite well.  Twilight had a worldwide gross of $385 million, New Moon’s worldwide gross is $707 million.  But Edward’s long sideburns bother me, and his poufy hair.  (No, I haven’t seen the movies, just pix.)

Next I combed the NY Times best seller list and found a number of the Romance: Vampires and Shapeshifters genre.  (Can’t we come up with a better genre?  It’s not Monster Mash, ‘cause many of the vamps are not “monsters” in that they are not cruel wicked and inhuman persons, but on the other hand they, along with were creatures,   are imaginary creatures usually having various human and animal parts.)  Most of these series are categorized as urban fantasy romance.

One cycle, The Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs, features a female auto mechanic specializing in foreign cars (Mercedes fixes Volkswagens, haha) who has an ability to sense magic when it is at work and  is also a shape-shifter who turns into a coyote possessed of a sharp nose for scenting other creatures.  She has two werewolves and a vampire in love with her.  But no sex and very little kissing.  The “fey” such as gremlins have come “out of the closet” and werewolves decide to do so too.  Mercy, of course, being a tough cookie and resistant to some magics such as vampire compulsion or werewolf pack control, saves the day in each book. 

Another heroine, in Charlaine Harris’ True Blood books, is a barmaid, Sookie Stackhouse, who can read minds and has a shape-shifter for a boss.  She has affairs with two vampires, an almost-affair with a werewolf, and is now (as I am only part way through the series) quite taken by a buff were tiger, way more powerful than a werewolf.  (Note: real male Siberian tigers are 10’ long and weigh 600 pounds.)  Vampires have “come out of the coffin” and swig synthetic blood (invented by the Japanese) in bars.  I love the humor.  Elvis, who is a vampire (this explains the sightings), catches stray cats for their blood.

Another kick-ass heroine is a half-vampire, Cat, of the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, who is recruited to work for “Men in Black”, and brings along her vampire lover, Bones.  Lots of very good sex.

In Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series the vampire hunter, Elena, has an archangel, Raphael, fall for her, as well as a vampire, but the angel wins.  And angels and vamps run NY City (and, of course, the rest of the world).  Way too much sex, dumb plot, but the angel wings are fascinating.

The Sookie books are my favorite with their humor.  (Her first vampire boyfriend, Bill, had been a soldier in the Civil War, and gives a talk to Sookie’s grandmother’s chapter of the Descendants of the Glorious Dead.)  The main thread that runs through these books is the smart-talking tough woman, who intrigues the vampire/werewolf/angel/whatever.  Frankly, after two divorces, I’d love to hook up with a vampire or werewolf who was head-over-heels in love with me!  Especially with their ripped bodies!  Except that the other thread is that the vampires, angels, werewolves, et al are very possessive.  Mercedes, for instance, hasn’t had an affair with any of them (so far in my reading) because she doesn’t want to be controlled.  (As opposed to Bella who is so often the damsel in distress.)

Vampires vary from author to author, however.  Either they only sleep in the day, or they sparkle like diamonds in the sun.  They have to be invited into a house, or not.  They can be defeated by silver or copper (copper! how boring).  Crosses can thwart them or not.  A stake in the heart can generally do them in, but decapitation or burning to ashes always does.

This research hasn’t taken too long, as most of the novels can be digested in a rainy day.  And they’re not much more fanciful than Olive Kitteridge who hooks up with a Republican in the end ‘cause he’s the only guy around to sleep with!  But I haven’t gone completely over to The Dark Side.  I’m still reading Two Years on the Yangtze and Wolf Hall (which is about Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell, not werewolves.)

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