Blood and Other Cravings
Edited by Ellen Datlow
Cover Artist: Photo: Trevillion Images
Review by Mario Guslandi
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765328281
Date: 13 September 2011 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Beware, vampire lovers, this is not an anthology of vampire stories in the traditional sense. In many of the tales included there are not actual vampires or vampire-like creatures endowed with fangs or bat-wings, shunning mirrors and crucifixes. In Ellen Datlow’s latest editorial work vampirism is a concept which may apply to either persons or objects, so much so that even the character of the classic vampire (therein present in only a minor fraction of the stories) appears to be a just symbol of a wider phenomenon which can lurk in our daily existence even though disguised under ordinary appearances.
At the end of the day, however, what really matters is the quality of the fiction and although some of the stories left me a bit dissatisfied or downright disappointed, the book features a fair number of standouts which make the anthology well worth reading.
"All You Can Do is Breath" by Kaaron Warren is a well crafted piece where vampirism takes a sophisticated turn, sucking out the very soul and life essence from the victim.
"Barskerville's Midgets" by Reggie Oliver is one of the two reprints included in the volume. In that grim, unnerving tale a group of mischievous midgets brings about tragedy and death into a respectable boarding house for actors.
The other reprint is Carol Emshwiller’s extraordinary "Mrs Jones", the delightful portrait of two spinsters living together and of the brief romance one of them has with an inhuman bat-like creature.
Lisa Tuttle contributes "Shelf-Life", a captivating tale about a doll house apt to mesmerize and psychically vampirize its owners.
In "X For Demetrious", Steve Duffy offers a rather cerebral approach to the anthology's theme by depicting the life and death of a Polish immigrant obsessed with vampires. Melanie Tem provides "Keeping Corky", a sad, compassionate story featuring a mother who gives away her only son, thus losing him for ever. Steve Rasnic Tem's "Miri" is the disturbing portrait of a pathetic, lonely woman who’s actually a psychic vampire.
Barbara Roden pens "Sweet Sorrow", an excellent story dealing very effectively with both the physical and psychic aspects of vampirism, behind the disappearances of some little girls.
To me the highlight of the book is John Logan's "The Third Always Beside You", a fascinating story graced by a terrific, powerful narrative style, where a married couple’s life is constantly under the shadow of another woman, a mistress whose role goes beyond the limits of a simple affair.
As always, Datlow displays an uncanny ability in picking out some great stories to disquiet and entertain horror genre readers.