Review

Teeth: Vampire Tales

edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling with contributions from Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, and more

Some vampires always have sharp, pointy teeth, so it's easy to recognize them. Then there are others that have teeth that don't get sharp or pointy until they are ready to strike, or until something arouses them in some way. They can be quite sneaky. While some are not sun lovers and avoid it at all costs, others adapt very well to various kinds of daylight. Not all vampires run at the sight of a cross nor do they all sleep in caskets. And did you know that just because a vampire bites you, it doesn't necessarily make you its slave? These are just a few little confusions that you might be able to clear up by reading this delicious collection of vampire stories.

Like looking at a piece of crystal, here are all kinds of vampires along with people who find themselves entwined --- willingly or otherwise. TEETH gives us 19 stories in which we meet the sophisticated, worldly vampires, the antique collectors, the reckless teenagers, the circus performers, the novice undead, the cursed, the creepy, the sneaky, the hungry ones, and the tricksters who lure and lie.

In the first story, "Things to Know About Being Dead" by Genevieve Valentine, Suyin is killed in an auto accident when her drunken girlfriend runs into a tree. She is no sooner aware of being dead than she realizes that her body is able to function and that, to all outward appearances, she is, in some form, still alive. After a few frightful days of really feeling awful --- terrible thirst, an inability to sleep, her body going through strange changes --- it is her grandmother who offers her comfort and explains that she has become a jiang-shi. Jiang-shi are vampires, her grandmother says, and now she must drink blood because otherwise her body will decompose. Though she hates the thought of drinking blood, it's not so bad after a while. Something even more terrifying begins to crowd in on her, and the feeling that she is not alone becomes a reality. She has brought someone or something back with her --- his name is Jake: His eye sockets were two black pits, as if sadness had swallowed him up while he was still alive.

Kaaron Warren's "The List of Definite Endings" has a gentle vampire named Claudia, whose mission is to bring merciful death to those in need. She works from a list of the terminally ill. Each death was worth grieving, each life was worth remembering.

"Transition" by Melissa Marr gives us a creepy walk into a graveyard where a ruthless young woman named Nikki turns Eliana into a vampire. She finds herself being tortured by Nikki and drawn to the handsome Sebastian. When Eliana finally realizes her own power, she takes control. But Sebastian has a surprise coming...and it's much too late for Nikki.

In a story about a young man trying to outwit the vampire that lives under his house, Nathan Ballingrud's "Sunbleached" gives us a highly intelligent, very clever vampire who fights for shelter from the light and bargains for Joshua's house --- but that's not all he wants. Its face emerged from the shadows like something rising from deep water. It hunched on its hands and knees, swinging its head like a dog trying to catch a scent. Its face had been burned off. The parchment strips of skin hung from blackened sinew and muscle. Even in this wretched state, though, it seemed weirdly graceful. A dancer pretending to be a spider.

And in a poem called "Bloody Sunrise," Neil Gaiman introduces us to a vampire lamenting the loneliness of his existence as he searches through the night. Bloody Sunrise comes again / Leaves me hungry and alone / Every time.

Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have put together one of the best vampire short story collections to come along in a while. Plenty of blood is unabashedly drawn in this book, with offerings from some of the most outstanding fantasy/horror writers around, including Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Garth Nix and Ellen Kushner. There's something for everyone, and though this collection might find a greater audience with teenagers, it's an absolute must for any vampire/horror fan, whatever the age.

Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts on April 5, 2011

Teeth: Vampire Tales
edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling with contributions from Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, and more