on 16 February 2006
As you will read from most of the other reviews, Melton's 'Encyclopedia' is so rife with blatant inaccuracies that it's useless to all but the most vapid of readers. It's apalling that a second edition of a reference book can get so many things wrong from entries on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to the classic Dracula films - don't get me started on how woefully unresearched the actual vampiric folklore in the book is. It's as if all he did was play "Vampire: The Masquerade" for a year, and then decided he was an expert on vampires. How this got past proof-readers and editors, I'll never know.
on 5 October 2003
Pleasingly heavy, and not unattractive in appearance, 'The Vampire Book' is a major missed opportunity. It lacks a clear editorial direction, with some entries that are questionable, and others that are conspicuous by their absence (in the comics section for example, Marvel and Chaos are covered while DC's influential Vertigo horror imprint warrants nary a mention). There are also numerous errors which compromise its integrity (mixing up Forry Ackerman with Vincent Price is pretty unforgivable in this context).
Interestingly Melton, in common with many wouldbe 'vampires', seems reluctant to distinguish between 'real' folkloric vampires and their fictional representations. Background from 'The Masquerade' game gets extensive coverage, at the expense one assumes of more meaty material. This, perhaps, is the book's biggest flaw, as references to recent vampire research, or indeed any kind of thematic analysis or insight, are conspicuous by their absence.
There's plenty here, but it lacks bite and, crucially, brains. David Skal's effort in a similiar vein - 'V is for Vampire' - while far from perfect, is a far more professional and provocative package than this somewhat aimless and anaemic attempt.
on 12 March 1999
This second edition was Melton's chance to correct the many factual errors in the first edition. Not only are most of those mistakes still intake, but the new edition contains plenty of new ones! Again, this would be a great book, but if you can't rely on the information in one entry, then ALL of them must be suspect, rendering the book useless as a reference on vampires in popular culture and folklore!
on 8 January 1999
Not only does this book contain hundreds of citations of vampire movies, books, videos and comics it also contains some of the most beautiful (or bloodcurdling) photographs I've ever seen. The entire book is laid out in a coherent manner and I have to say again the photographs, covers and movie stills are reproduced excellently!
Okay, forget that for some reason that passes understanding Keifer Sutherland from "Lost Boys" is the vampire pictured on the cover. This is THE Encyclopedia of the Dead and, as the cover proudly complains, this edition is "Completely Revamped." If you enjoy vampire stories and are trying to keep straight the difference between the vampires of Stoker and those of Anne Rice, this book is for you.
Martin V. Riccardo's Foreword, "A Brief Cultural History of the Vampire" is a solid introduction to the subject matter. The tome's editor, J. Gordon Melton, answers the age old question "What is a Vampire?" in his preface. There is also a Vampire Chronology. But the guts and glory of this book is the 900+ pages of entries.
"The Vampire Book" gives equal weight to appearances of the vampires in the mass media and in the folklore of the world. You can read all about "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in film and on television and then also learn that the late Denholm Elliot played a memorable Dracula in a British television version in 1969. You can find out about vampires in Scandinavia as well as the historical Dracula, Vlad Tepes the Impaler. Attention is paid to such things as blood, vampires and science-fiction, and vampire games (both board and role-playing).
All entries are cross-referenced by bold-faced type, which allows you to skip around from article to article?a lot more fun than just proceeding alphabetically. You can being with "Ackerman, Forrest James (1916-- )," which leads you to "Vampirella," then to "stake," and in turn "Bela Lugosi," "Transylvania," "Szekelys," "Bran Stoker," and on and on until suddenly the night has passed, the sun is coming up and you are turned into a pile of vampire dust (see: "Sunlight," pp 660-661).
* But could never find out, even when you asked.
Vampires have been with us for hundreds of years, and in pop culture ever since "Nosferatu" hit theaters. And despite its terribly generic title, "The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead" is a solid bedside book for fans of fangs -- it overemphasizes the pop culture vampires, but it contains a lot of fascinating material on lesser-known stuff connected to vampires.
As you'd expect, it's arranged in alphabetical order... that is to say, Ackerman to Youngman (plus some periodical lists and a couple of weird forewords). J. Gordon Melton carefully describes vampire-centric art, music, movies, TV show, books, clubs, plays, and people who created the above (including Tanya Huff, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Tom Cruise, Poppy Z Brite) and reported on others' work (Katherine Ramsland). Some are well-known, and some are more obscure.
Additionally, there are entries for things connected to vampires: the gothic scene and gothic literature, blood, the vampire in various psychological theories, related animals, "real life" vampire attacks, locales, and entries on individual countries that describes their bloodsucker legends. Additionally, there are some entries of mythic vampires that don't really fit the norm.
"The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead" is a pretty good resource for people who want to investigate more about vampires -- it's not THE best vampire encyclopedia, but it's a good sourcebook. Lots of semi-detailed biographies and factual entries, mostly covering the best-known people and art of the genre.
Additionally, it reveals some fascinating lesser-known information as well ("Varney the Vampyre" and its author), especially the myths of individual countries (the vampire in RUSSIA!). Melton relates all this in a steady, scholarly style that doesn't waver into fanboyishness, and lists most of the relevant information (although he skimps on biographical information for some).
The downside? It's top heavy on pop culture vampires -- movies, popular books, even music -- and includes stuff that doesn't actually include vampires ("Highlander"? The kappa?) as well as extraneous entries that aren't really needed ("Good Guy Vampire"?). And there are some scattered factual errors, such as saying that Angel from "Buffy" came from Greece. I'm not even a fan, and I know he's from Ireland!
"The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead" is a solid accompaniment for the vampire fan, but those seeking a more scholarly, less pop-cultured book might try "The Vampire Encyclopedia."