I think the title of this book does it more harm than good, creating expectations that don't quite pan out in the text and thereby donning it with a ready-made target for criticism. It's really hard to describe The Science of Vampires because the author covers so much material and does it in the most fascinating of ways. I found this book nothing short of riveting and continuously eye-opening. I've been reading about vampires for a long time, but Ramsland made me feel like a vampire layman quite uninitiated in the secrets truths and mystical airs of the subject at hand. She advanced notions that had never occurred to me, bringing to bear the tools of physical, abstract, and social science in her study.
Nowhere does the author claim that vampires are "real," it is important to note. She is not out to prove vampire existence; instead, she sets out to study the vampire mythos in a scientific manner. When she discusses the "birth" of the vampire in folklore, she addresses such physical things as the decomposition of the human body to explain how perfectly natural occurrences such as a body shifting in the grave, bloating, or maintaining a rare redness of pallor might explain events our ancestors ascribed to evil manifestations. She takes vampire characteristics such as fangs, a compulsion to drink blood, an inability to tolerate sunlight, etc., and postulates as to what conditions and behaviors might provide an actual, scientific explanation for such unusual manifestations in an individual. She even delves rather deeply into matters of DNA and genetic mutation in discussing the possibility of retarding cellular death in order to prolong life. I was mesmerized by the conjectures she offered up for thought. She takes a substantive look at vampire-like criminals such as Peter Kurten (the Monster of Dusseldorf), Countess Erzebet Bathory, as well as serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer, and she even goes so far as to describe what the crime scene of an actual vampire killing might look like. She goes deeply into psychology and forensics, offering a profile of a hypothetical vampire killer and pointing to serological analyses, odontological studies of teeth marks, and other modern marvels of forensic science that would put the vampire of today in a much more legally vulnerable spot than his blood-sucking predecessors of old. Later, she attempts to answer all the questions you have about vampire sex and are afraid to ask, addressing the undeniably powerful eroticism that in many ways defines vampirism.
Ramsland's most instructive contributions are also her most esoteric ones. The author spends a significant amount of time speaking to the continual evolution and seemingly permanent appeal of the vampire. Her approach reveals more about man than vampire in the end, but that is because the vampire not only represents something deep and meaningful in the human imagination, he reflects and anticipates constantly shifting cultural values in society. Ramsland demonstrates this most forcibly in her analysis of the evolution of the vampire persona in literature over the years; the appeal of Dracula remains strong, but the vampires of the late 20th century are a far cry from Stoker's imaginings; what was once evil has been turned into all manner of romantic, sympathetic, and sexually twisted individuals. She employs the methods of deconstruction to examine vampires in a postmodern light, linking such analysis to the radical scientific shift from Newtonian thought to quantum theory. Ramsland's ability to address the essence of vampirism from so many complex levels is impressive, to say the least.
The Science of Vampires is one of the most insightful, eye-opening, horizon-expanding examinations of the vampire I have ever read. Although the author uses a plethora of analytical tools from a wide assortment of disciplines, the text remains fascinating and lucid throughout. The Science of Vampires answers questions I would never have thought to ask, and I recommend it quite highly to anyone with a passionate interest in that most powerful and alluring monster of man's collective imagination, the vampire.
I love vampires; there's some kind of mystery to them which just draws me in, so when I saw this book I was really interested to see if there really could be vampires out there.
I loved this book, it wasn't saying all the ways that vampires couldn't be real, but finding scientific loopholes where vampires could exist.
It's a great book, and I recommend it to anyone who is curious about vampires.
on 8 December 2009
I love vampires, i love any books about them & novels etc i.e. Anne Rice & Stephenie Meyer, but this book was a bit of a anti-climax, From the reviews i expected it to be quite a interesting read but after the first 15 pages i was bored of it already. I carried on reading to give it a chance, after 50 pages i stopped and started flicking through the book to find better parts to read that may be of some interest.
Throughout the book all the author goes on about is Bram Stoker's 'Dracula', I thought this book was suppose to be the "science" of vampires? but she just picks things from Dracula or I Am Legend and compares them over and over. Its extremely repetitive and a boring read. There is no "science" in this book at all. its just a very long winded Annotation of 'dracula'.
If you love your vampires as much as i do then youll find this book a bore.