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The Best of Dreams of Decadence

edited by Angela Kessler

(Roc, US$6.99 / Canada$9.99, 337 pages, paperback, 2003.)

This anthology cover scanreprints some of the most outstanding material from Dreams of Decadence, a justifiably famous magazine devoted to vampires. The style runs to literary, going far beyond the routine blood-and-gore of the horror genre and even the soon-jejune subgenre of vampire romance/erotica. In these pages you'll find complex characters, tangled plotlines, and new interpretations of old myths. Expect the unexpected.

The stories range in length from short to rather long, and in tone from wicked to passionate to downright dark matter. Sharon Lee's "Passionato" features a vampire who prefers to feed on artists, because the vibrant energy of humanity runs strongest in those who create. "All Things Being Not Quite Equal" by Diana Pharaoh Francis explores what happens when a new convert turns out to be the antithesis of vampiric ideal. Warren Lapine's "Mona Lisa" makes a splendid contrast to "Passionato" in its treatment of art and vampirism, in which a great painter faces a degenerative disease. In "Presumed Icarus," Tippi N. Blevins demonstrates the true nature of loyalty, love ... and faith. Tanith Lee's "Vermilia" asks, Who hunts the hunters? "Feeding the Mouth That Bites Us" by L. Jagi Lamplighter takes a hard look at female psychology, using vampirism as an apt metaphor for womanizing and domestic abuse.

Another unusual aspect to this anthology is its inclusion of poetry as well as fiction. The editor chose some remarkable verses, and I'd like to see others follow suit. Anne Sheldon's "Murava" presents an unusual type of Slavic/Finno-Ugric vampire, beginning life as a human infant born with a tooth showing. "She Dreams in Color" by Ann K. Schwader again touches the theme of painting. In "Vampire Standards", Uncle River suggests what is really wrong with the world today.

In all aspects, The Best of Dreams of Decadence rises above the competition. If you love vampire fiction, this is a must-have. If you love vampire fiction but you're tired of all the cheap Anne Rice knock-offs ... it's all the more a must-have. Creative folks should also give it a peek, vampire buff or no; the many explorations of inspiration and creative drive are well worth reading. Most highly recommended.


Review by Elizabeth Barrette.

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