Archive for AWESOME-tober-fest 2011

AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Forever Knight (1992)

Posted in monsters, pop culture, TV shows, vampires with tags , , , , , , , on October 18, 2011 by Paxton

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Day 2 of vampire TV week.  Yesterday we talked about Dracula The Series from 1991.  I mentioned that one of the guest stars in that show would go on the next year and star in his own vampire series.  That vampire series was Forever Knight.
Forever Knight title This show originally began as a 1989 TV movie named Nick Knight on CBS starring Rick Springfield. For the broadcast series, CBS recast the lead with Geraint Wyn Davies and renamed it Forever Knight.

In a way, this show was sort of a precursor to Angel. Nick Knight is a Toronto police detective on the midnight shift. Nick is also an 800 year old vampire. Born in Roman times, Nick was once a very violent vampire reveling in chaos. Nowadays, Nick refuses to feed on human blood and subsists only on bottled animal blood. He keeps his vampiric nature a secret and occasionally uses his supernatural abilities to catch the bad guy. Some of Nick’s abilities include super strength and speed, heightened senses, flight and low level hypnotic/psychic powers.  There is one human, the city medical examiner, who is aware of Nick being a vampire.  Two other former vampire acquaintances of Nick show up later on and continually try to lure him back into his less than civilized ways.

Forever Knight

The show ran for three seasons and has garnered quite a cult following.  In 2004, TV Guide listed it #23 in a list of the top 25 “cult shows” of all time. There were three books released based on the series. The books contained original stories that furthered the story from Season 3 after the show was canceled.

There was also a soundtrack released for the show and the entire run of episodes was released on DVD.  You can get all three seasons as well as the original TV movie with Rick Springfield off Netflix.  Neither have been added to streaming, however you can watch them on Amazon Instant Movies.

Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Dracula the Series (1991)

Posted in Dracula, monsters, pop culture, TV shows, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by Paxton

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Thus begins week three of AWESOME-tober-fest. This week begins TV week. Let’s start things off with a little known Canadian vampire TV show, shall we?

Today, we are looking at Dracula The Series.  This show originally aired in 1991.  In this show, Dracula poses as a wealthy tycoon named Alexander Lucard (A. Lucard…get it?  Like we don’t get enough backwards Dracula references).  Dracula had plans every week for some dastardly doings.  The group opposing him was led by Gustav Van Helsing and his nephews Max and Chris.  At the very least, the show followed the lore of the books in that Dracula could walk in the daylight, but loses his powers when doing so.

The show had several guest stars that were famous in Canada. Geraint Wyn Davies would appear in several episodes as Gustav’s son who was turned into a vampire. For those that don’t know, Geraint would go on to star in his own vampire TV show one year later. But I’ll talk more about that show tomorrow.  Other guest stars include Kim Coates who has starred in tons of movies and TV shows like Waterworld, Prison Break and Sons of Anarchy as well as Barry Morse from The Fugitive and Space: 1999.

Here’s the intro to the show:

You can also watch several of the episodes on YouTube starting with Episode 1.

Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: The Dracula Tape by Fred Saberhagen

Posted in books, Dracula, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2011 by Paxton

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Today is the final day of Dracula book week. Yesterday I looked at Bram Stoker’s original Dracula novel. Today, I take a look at a semi-sequel to that novel.  Fred Saberhagen’s The Dracula Tape.

The Dracula Tape

If this seems familiar, I reviewed a similar Saberhagen book back in 2009 called The Frankenstein Papers. My theme that year was, obviously, Frankenstein and I had just read Mary Shelley’s book.  It seemed like fun to read a sequel to such a seminal work in horror literature.  Saberhagen’s book told Mary Shelley’s story from a different point of view.  Most notably, the monster’s.

Well, after deciding that I was going to try, again, to read Stoker’s Dracula, I wanted to read another book that did the same thing.  Well, as the fates would have it, Saberhagen did the same thing with Dracula.  He wrote this book which looks at the events in Dracula from the Count’s point of view.  And it’s all narrated by the Count himself.  Saberhagen’s Dracula would become fairly popular and would spawn a series of books featuring the title character.  The second book even features Dracula facing off with Sherlock Holmes.  So, needless to say, I thought this sounded very interesting so I read it.

Dracula Tape book cover
(Via Robert Adragna)

This story is actually very interesting. Like I said, the conceit is similar to The Frankenstein Papers. The events in Bram Stoker’s novel are told from the perspective of Dracula himself. Saberhagen’s Dracula is much more refined than Stoker’s. He paints the group of vampire hunters in Stoker’s tale as a group of misguided bufoons. Especially Van Helsing who comes off as a bully or a thug. Many of Van Helsing’s actions in the original novel are called into question by Saberhagen’s Count, especially his decision not to tell anyone about Dracula being a vampire until it was too late. It was actually very entertaining reading passages of the book I had trouble following in Stoker’s novel told in a more clearly defined way in Saberhagen’s book. It made my understanding of the original more complete. Even more so than the Cliff’s Notes I purchased (Yes, I purchased the Cliff Notes for Dracula).

So, I can recommend this book.  I don’t even think you need to read the original Stoker novel because this just goes over the same territory and does it more clearly. Reading it may help for you to get the experience of seeing the events from Dracula’s eyes as opposed to the original novel, but I just don’t hate you enough to tell you to read Stoker’s novel.

Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Posted in books, Classic literature, Dracula, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, reviews, Uncategorized, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2011 by Paxton

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Day 4 of Vampire book week. Today, we look at the original vampire novel. The one that began the popularization of the vampire myths. Let’s take a look at Bram Stoker’s original Dracula.

Dracula novel

I really enjoy doing AWESOME-tober-fest. It has given me a reason to read and watch books and movies I’ve always wanted to but never really “sucked it up” and made the commitment to do. Two years ago I read Shelley’s Frankenstein and I was surprised at how readable it was. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And based on that success, I was anxious to read Stoker’s Dracula.

Now, to be fair, I tried to read Dracula once already. It was back in the late ’90s when I was going through my “must read classics” phase. I couldn’t get through it. I remember thinking the first third of the book was good, but it completely fell apart after that.  However, being older and wiser, I thought I could better appreciate it now.  Besides, while not the first vampire novel, it certainly is what made them popular.  Plus it influenced the original Universal Dracula with Bela Lugosi which would further the ingraining of vampires into popular culture.

Like I said, Stoker’s 1897 book was not the first vampire story.  An essay published in the periodical Ninteenth Century in 1885 called Transylvania Superstitions discussed the mythical creatures.  Lord Byron created a vampire story during the same night of ghost story telling that Mary Shelley created Frankenstein.  Byron wouldn’t finish the story but John Polidori would polish it up and finish it as The Vampyre in 1819.  However it was Stoker’s Dracula that popularized the monster.  But it wouldn’t be until Universal’s 1931 movie based loosely (and I mean loosely) on the novel that Dracula would receive the popularity it currently achieves.

Stoker's Dracula

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Posted in books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, reviews, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2011 by Paxton

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We’ve made it to Hump Day of vampire book week.  Click the banner above to see all of the other books and comics I’ve looked at these past two weeks of AWESOME-tober-fest 2011.

Today I’ll be looking at Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Seth Grahame-Smith wrote the seminal Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (P&P&Z).  The success of that book launched a niche publishing empire.  Classic lit/horror mashups are still being released in droves.  Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter.  The Undead Land of Oz.  Android Karenina.  Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters.  There was even a prequel to the original P&P&Z called Dawn of the Dreadfuls.  I haven’t read any of those other books, but I read the original P&P&Z.  It’s a surprisingly subtle book considering the title.  Grahame-Smith deftly weaves his more outlandish story into the original Austen story with much success.  There is a reason the book became a sensation, it’s well written.  Grahame-Smith’s followup stuck to the same genre.  It was to be today’s book; Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and was released in Spring 2010.

In March 2010, I looked at the trailer for this book.  Here’s that trailer:

Judging just from the cover and that trailer, you expect this book to be completely over the top.  Like a Zack Snyder fever dream while tripping on acid.  However, Grahame-Smith pulls a similar feat with this book that he did with P&P&Z, deftly combining a history of Abraham Lincoln and subtly revealing the secret existence of vampires in early America.  The book is based on the assumption that it is revealing the contents of several of Lincoln’s “hidden” journals.  All of which reveal the vampire secrets and his efforts to kill all the vampires.

AL: VH back

The book begins with a chapter in how Grahame-Smith came into possession of Lincoln’s hidden journals.  They were ostensibly given to him one day by a very mysterious person.  Unfortunately, Grahame-Smith doesn’t ever go back to that introduction, but the story that follows is fascinating.  It really does start off like you are reading a biography of our 16th President.  Even after we meet the first vampire, it never completely takes off into Buffy the Vampire Slayer territory.  It always stays true to the Abe Lincoln story, while occasionally detouring into vampires.  And the way Grahame-Smith deftly integrates vampires into the secret history of the Civil War and slavery is just fascinating.

This book was surprising. I expected a ridiculous sendup of vampire movies/books. Something more along the lines of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel but with Abe Lincoln. However Grahame-Smith has crafted a very good vampire hunter story that cleverly uses famous events in Lincoln’s life and turns them on their ear and somehow manages to make them, in some way, connect to this hidden vampire conspiracy.  I was surprised, but pleasantly so.  I definitely recommend this book and say be prepared for a story that is better written than this subject has any right to be.

Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Posted in books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2011 by Paxton

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Day 2 of AWESOME-tober-fest 2011’s Dracula/vampire book week.  Today I’m looking at another series of books that don’t star Dracula, but have vampires as the main character.  I’m talking about The Strain books by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

The Strain Book 1 The Strain Book 2

Director Guillermo Del Toro conceived of this story while trying to develop a vampire television show.  When he couldn’t get the show made he contacted Chuck Hogan about writing the story as a trilogy of novels.  Del Toro picked crime writer Hogan because he wanted the books to have a basis in science like CSI.  The first book in the Strain trilogy, The Strain (official website), was released in Summer 2009.  The second book, The Fall, was released in Fall 2010.  I got my copy of the first book off in Oct 2010 right after The Fall was released in hardback.  I really wanted to read it due to Del Toro’s involvement, but Chuck Hogan had also written the book Prince of Thieves from which the movie The Town was based, so I was also excited about that.  But, in the back of my mind, I was thinking that vampires have become tired the last few years (Thank you, Mrs Meyer).  Could this book actually be any good?

The short answer so far is YES.  Suddenly vampires are horrifying again.  Del Toro and Hogan have crafted a masterful vampire tale that brings vampires back into the realm of truly terrifying.  To date I’ve read Book 1 (The Strain) and Book 2 (The Fall) in the trilogy.  Book 3 (The Night Eternal) is being released on Oct 25 (in 2 weeks!).

The first book starts off with a bang.  A 747 lands at JFK airport and goes completely dark.  No communication, no running lights, no cabin lights.  A first response CDC team is called in led by Dr Ephraim Goodweather (Eph).  Eph and his team discover a deadly virus strain that takes over the human body and transforms the host into what can only be described as a “vampire”.  The first book is all about the discovery of the virus and the initial infection of New York.  We also begin to learn the history of the virus with the introduction of Professor Abraham, a holocaust survivor.  Abraham has committed his life to destroying vampires and recruits Eph and his team to his cause.  Professor Abraham has encountered vampires before, even meeting one of the “Ancients”, one of the first 7 vampires.  It is actually one of these Ancients that has “gone rogue” and set this infection into motion to further his own agenda.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: Review of Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak series

Posted in books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, reviews, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2011 by Paxton

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Here we are, Week 2 of AWESOME-tober-fest 2011.  Last week was comic book week.  This week is book week.  We’ll start this week’s entries off with a book series I started a few years ago and I’ve talked about on the blog a few times.  It’s not about Dracula specifically, but it features a nice twist on vampires and vampire lore.  I’m talking about Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak series.

I started Shan’s series back in October 2009. I reviewed the first three books here. The first five books even made it into my year end “best of” book report in 2009. And as of April of this year, I finally finished the 12 book series. I was able to finally acquire the last two books with some help from my buddy Rondal Scott over at Strange Kids Club.  So thanks for that, Rondal!  Anyway, I thought since I’d talked about this series earlier, and I’ve mentioned it since, that I would wrap things up with a final review of the series.

Cirque du Freak 10 Cirque du Freak 11 Cirque du Freak 12

This series has been very good. The world Shan creates is fascinating. His version of vampires is slightly different but it works. In Shan’s world, vampires are not mindless killers. They do drink human blood, but they are able to exhale a “knockout gas” from their mouth to render a human unconscious and then cut a small scratch into their shoulder or arm from which they drink. They only drink what they need then leave the human to resume his life. However, vampires have a more violent cousin called Vampaneze. They are the vicious “drink until humans are dead” monsters that one normally associates with vampires. Both of these factions are at war with each other in what is called The War of the Scars. The main character is Darren Shan, a boy who is blooded by Larten Crepsley, a former Vampire General.  Darren becomes a half vampire, then is whisked away into many different adventures with his mentor, Mr Crepsley, and eventually passes the Vampire Trials, becomes a Vampire Prince and takes part in the War of the Scars as one of the chosen warriors who must defeat the rumored Vampaneze Lord.

One of the fascinating things about this book is the social setup of the vampire nation. Much of the higher order vampires live in Vampire Mountain.  Vampire Mountain is ruled by the Vampire Princes, who essentially make all the important decisions for the vampire community. There are also Vampire Generals, who are higher level vampires. And when you come of age, like I mentioned earlier, you have to pass the deadly Trials before you are accepted as a full vampire.  The world is just deep and endlessly interesting.  Some of the most fun and interesting books took place entirely in Vampire Mountain and had nothing to do with the War of the Scars.

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