Review: Blood and Other Cravings
An anthology of vampires and other dark creatures that go bump in the night, BLOOD AND OTHER CRAVINGS (Amazon) attempts to explore the unexplained. While the concept is interesting, the selected stories are a mish-mash of clever, creepy, predictable, and just plain weird.
The majority of them were so-so for me, mostly because they were confusing and unexplainable–the style not unlike the stories you heard around a late-night campfire as a kid. If you like dark fantasy for the sake of the mysterious and creepy atmosphere, you’ll probably like BLOOD AND OTHER CRAVINGS, edited by Ellen Datlow, for the ambiance alone. But for me, I guess I like my stories a little more tidy and explainable, less vagueness. Maybe I’m too demanding (yes I was the spoil-sport who rolled my eyes at the campfire stories).
A few of the stories did stand out, however:
“Needles” by Elizabeth Bear – A vampire and a lamashtu walk into a tattoo parlor… that kind of makes it sound like the start of a really lame joke, but in reality they are two immortals who help each other to fulfill their nefarious needs. Great dialogue and fluid movement, with an engaging story and the display of folklore in action that turns deliciously twisty. If you pick up this book and read one story while standing in the bookstore, this one is worth your time.
“Mulberry Boys” by Margo Lanagan – George is chosen from the village boys to help Phillips (the man from the towns) who gathers the silk for trading. When George learns the true horrors of Phillips’ work, he takes matters into his own hands. All at the same time horrific, sad, and satisfying, Lanagan mixes up sociological with an everyday concept.
“Sweet Sorrow” by Barbara Roden – Brian’s friend from school, Melissa, disappears one day never to be seen again, leaving an unfilled hole in his heart. Until one day Brian begins to see a pattern in the disappearances of other little girls. Straightforward and predictable, but still effectively written.
“Toujours” by Kathe Koja – From the PoV of a man who watches his protégé make a terrible mistake but is powerless to stop it. A little garbled at first, Koja makes up for it with the manipulating evilness of the antagonist.
If you like mental illness stories then check out the interesting “Keeping Corkey” by Melanie Tem and “X for Demetrious” by Steve Duffy.
If you like vague creepiness then read “All You Can Do Is Breathe” by Kaaron Warren, “Blood Yesterday, Blood Tomorrow” by Richard Bowes, “Shelf-Life” by Lisa Tuttle, and “Miri” by Steve Rasnic Tem.
- Recommended Age: 16+ for general creepiness but watch out for the sex scenes (noted below)
- Language: Maybe ten instances in the whole book
- Violence: Some, including deaths, but nothing particularly gory other than references to blood
- Sex: Referenced in some of them;