Sunday, August 19, 2012
Release date: 2002
• Are any vampire myths based on fact?
• Bloodsucking Villain to guilt-ridden loner—what has inspired the redemption of the vampire in fiction and film?
• What is vampire personality disorder?
• What causes a physical addiction to another person’s blood?
• Are there any boundaries in the polysexual world of vampires?
• How would a vampire hide in today’s world of advanced forensic science?
• What happens to the brain of a vampire’s victim?
Since Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published in 1897, the concept of the vampire has evolved from supernatural creature of the night to reluctant bloodsucker to the sympathetic creature of today’s popular culture. Featuring interviews with forensic experts, creative artists and real-life bloodsuckers, The Science of Vampires offers a fascinating investigation into the myths and realities of the vampire, exploring every aspect of the dark force that has played host to our fears of infection, depletions, alien influence, and disease. From vampirism’s roots in ancient legend, to its scientific evolution as a very real mental disorder, Ramsland proves just how immortal, enigmatic, and seductive the lure of blood can be.
The review: This was a difficult book to pin down, eclectic might be a good term but let me illustrate this with a definition. Ramsland defines vampirism, for the sake of the book and as a starting position, as “more of a feeling than a creature: the dread of losing control to something that invades us and slowly drains us while holding us enthralled.” This is all well and good (though there are the vampires who quickly drain and violently terrify) and, indeed, it is a roughly catch-all definition for a lot of the genre. However it is too wide, perhaps, to give a focus and this is where the book fails.
The book takes a potted trip through the media vampire, recognising the malleable nature of vampire media, but concentrating mainly on Dracula, I am Legend and (rather heavily) Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. It looks at folklore and killers with vampiric traits (some listed are only debatably vampire orientated killers, though admittedly Ramsland does draw doubt on some cases herself) and then wanders into the vampire lifestyle/spirituality scene.
Perhaps the title is the problem, I was certainly looking for more on ‘if vampires were real how could we scientifically explain them’, but I think overall it is the diffuse focus that causes the problem. The book is a catch-all rather than concentrating on folklore, media, murder, lifestyle or spirituality. I, as a reader, did not feel that all the questions in the blurb had been explored satisfactorily.
That all said, I enjoyed what was there and my own personal focus on vampires is diffuse enough that there was meat amongst the literary bones I was picking through. Mixing the metaphors, however, it was a long meandering trip and by the end I had aching feet. 5.5 out of 10.