Ellen Datlow, editor,
A Whisper of Blood
(Berkley, 1991)

A Whisper of Blood is a collection of 18 short stories that examine the subject of vampirism from primarily a metaphorical approach, although there are a couple of strong vampire stories included. The editor explains that she wanted to present stories that would "disturb complacency and challenge assumptions." In most of these stories, there is an absence of the traditional vampire and humans fill the role of monsters.

These are all strong stories that will urge you forward. But if you are expecting true vampire stories, forget this book and seek satisfaction elsewhere. I was really disappointed when I began reading it. The first story, "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep," was fantastic. When a woman commits suicide, she decides that she is not ready to quit living and has made a mistake. She begs to remain on Earth. The only way to postpone her rising into the heavens is for her to create a body for her spirit out of astral material and feed on blood to sustain its life. There is a catch-22: her victims must be willing to let her take their blood. The first problem is getting victims to cooperate. The second is her squeamish streak about the whole bloody issue.

This first story got me into the mood for vampires and set the atmosphere for a chilling read. I was eager for the next and went straight into "The Slug." By the time I finished it, I was sickened that this would be published in a vampire book! It is a story about how a lonely man barges into a writer's life and annihilates his creative flow. The writer kills him.

My favorite was definitely the first. I also loved "A Week in the Unlife," which is written as the journal entries of a vampire slayer. But these two are the strong points of this entire book.

To me, a rapist is many things, but not a vampire. When a book is promoted as a vampire book, I do not expect to find myself reading stories that illustrate how a rapist is a vampire. That is a rip-off to every vampire fan in the world and tap dances on the line of blatant dishonesty in promotions. If I wanted to read about rapists, I would buy a book on the subject.

These are great stories with strength of composition. But the bottom line is that most of these stories do not belong in a vampire book -- not even by the most extensive stretch of the imagination. This book was a let-down and I ended up feeling like I had been conned into spending my money for something of no interest to me when what I really wanted was a good, old-fashioned, scare-the-yell-out-of-me vampire book. I hope to steer other readers away from this same disappointment.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 5 July 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.