As 2009 came to a close, I remember having conversations with more than a few booksellers and readers who predicted that the vampire fiction bubble, expanding for years now, would finally burst in 2010 – but with the end of the year now in sight, I can safely say that they were wrong.
The popularity of bloodsuckers in literature definitely did not decline this year – there are still oodles of vampire-powered teen paranormal novels being released, for example – but it did take an interesting evolutionary turn: it went grand-scale. Three of my favorite reads this year were epic vampire thrillers – Justin Cronin’s brilliant The Passage, Clay and Susan Griffith’s equally brilliant The Greyfriar, and Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s second installment of their Strain trilogy, The Fall.
Yes, there was a fair share of uninspired and derivative vampire fiction published – as there is every year – but the crème de la crème of 2010 wasn’t just very good, it was simply extraordinary. I described The Passage as an “unarguable post-apocalyptic classic,” Evolve was one of the best vampire anthologies I’ve ever read, and The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer was probably the most surprising read of the year – I was expecting another unsatisfying mash-up and I got a masterfully written amalgam of historical fantasy, dark fantasy and Arthurian legend.
“After being immersed in this 766-page mammoth of a read for days on end, I can say this – describing The Passage as an extraordinary vampire novel does it a huge disservice. It’s so much more than that. It’s like a fusion of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Stephen King’s The Stand with a pinch of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain thrown in for good measure; it’s an epic post-apocalyptic thriller about the last remnants of humankind’s struggle for survival amidst a terrifying landscape of death, destruction and millions of nightmarish virals (humans who have been transformed into blood-thirsty, virtually indestructible monsters – with exoskeletons so hard it makes Kevlar look like “pancake batter”)...”
With that in mind, choosing my favorite vampire release of the year was a no-brainer – narrowing down the rest of the list was another story altogether. But since so many of the stellar vampire-powered books I read this year were considered Paranormal Fantasy, I decided to include them all in another list (“The Best Paranormal Fantasy Releases of 2010”) and concentrate this list on all of the remaining releases.
So, after finally chopping the unwieldy list down to a baker's dozen, here are my selections for the best vampire fiction releases of 2010...
1. The Passage by Justin Cronin
2. The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith
3. The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer by Lucy Weston
4. The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
5. Evolve edited by Nancy Kilpatrick
6. Twilight Forever Rising by Lena Meydan
8. Memories of Envy by Barb Hendee
9. The Radleys by Matt Haig
10. Twelve by Jasper Kent
11. Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth
12. Lover Mine by J.R. Ward
13. Blood Pressure by Terence Taylor
My prediction for 2011? I think there will still be a lot of mediocre vampire fiction released next year but, hopefully – like zombie fiction in 2010 – vampire fiction will find ways to evolve and redefine itself. A quote from former South African prime minister P.W. Botha, "adapt or die" is fitting here – if the vampire mythos stagnates, readers will simply look elsewhere for their literary kicks. If authors like Justin Cronin, Clay and Susan Griffith, Barb Hendee, Jasper Kent, etc. continue to push the boundaries, vampire fiction will remain dynamic and decidedly undead.
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for almost the last two decades and has written more than 6,000 reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.
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