The Vampire Sextette - The Vampire Sextette is an anthology that sets out to stray from the same-old tired vampire themes. It accomplishes this goal, the stories are not your run of the mill vampire tales, but only three out of the six thrilled me.

The first story, The Other Side of Midnight by Kim Newman, gets off to a slow start and never fully recovers. It is a mishmash of several elements but is basically the tale of a Genevieve, an ancient female vampire, who spends her time as a private investigator in Hollywood. She runs into Orson Welles who, in this alternate universe, is working on filming his version of Dracula. Orson hires her to check out the mysterious man financing the film. During the investigation she gets an inside look at the making of vampire porn (nothing too explicit though, darn it!) and meets up with the hilarious Barbie and her Overlooker (if you are a fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer you will want to read the story for these priceless moments alone). There are many descriptive passages about the filming process which might have interested me if I were remotely interested in Orson Welles or in the process of making a film but sadly it was all wasted on me. Though it had its moments this 88 page story seemed much longer to me and I admit to skimming in order to get Barbie’s next appearance.

Some Velvet Morning by Nancy Collins was more to my liking. This story features a witch with a rather icky beauty secret. In order to rejuvenate her youthful good looks she must bathe in fresh human blood. Her victims are horny (and nearly always married) males easily tempted with a promise of sex made by a beautiful woman. In my opinion this type of guy deserves everything he gets so the comeuppance, though gory, was quite entertaining for me. Vampire Sonja Blue, Nancy Collins famous vampire-slayer, is hot on the trail of the blood witch because she, unlike myself, does not believe the witch should be allowed to continue her public service work. Though this story slightly disappointed me near its end it was fast-paced, violent and an enjoyable little read if you are in the mood for nastiness.

Sheena by Brian Stableford was my favorite of all of the stories. Tony Weever is your typical young customer service-drone spending his working hours placating angry customers while surrounded by a group of venomous young female co-workers whom he does his best to avoid. Sheena is the exception. She is a loner and is rumored to be a goth who is too weird to date. Tony is intrigued and begins a tentative friendship with Sheena that slowly turns into love. Tony will do anything to please Sheena and initially feigns interest in her darker lifestyle but quickly becomes entranced in her world of music, past lives and vampirism. This is a lovely but bittersweet story of love and loss that sways towards the melancholy but remains hopeful all at the same time. It also beautifully combines the threads of music and sensuality while painting a unique picture of vampirism.

Vanilla Blood by S.M. Somtow begins smack dab in the middle of a sensational court case involving the bizarre killing spree of one young man. It is a pretty blatant spoof of the over-the-top cases that were recent at the time the story was written (OJ and the like) and it is pretty darn funny in an extremely morbid and often juvenile, sex-obsessed sort of way. The story is written from the point of view of several key witnesses. My favorite was the sex obsessed best friend of the murder suspect who tends to go off on sexual tangents while telling the story that led up to the murders. This may not be the best written story I have ever read (for instance, two of the teenage witnesses are written in the same exact “voice” and I couldn’t distinguish one from the other) but it has lots of sex, lots of blood and, most importantly, it made me laugh several times.

My least favorite of this collection is Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s dull entry titled In The Face of Death. The story chronicles the days Madelaine de Montalia, the so-called vampire of the piece, spends in the arms of her married human lover William Sherman. Initially, the two fight their bizarre attraction to each other (bizarre to me because there is nothing particularly attractive about either of these people) but of course they succumb to the temptation. The remainder of the story consists of scattered kisses, romps and slight feelings of guilt. Interspersed within the story are Madelaine’s journal entries which only cement the fact that she is one of the most mind-numbingly boring vampires I have ever come across. She writes in excruciating detail about such interesting subjects as house hunting and financial matters. Worse, even, is the fact that there is no blood letting, no sexual tension, no violence, absolutely zero character development and darn it, there is not even a good old fashioned brood going on here! This story may as well of been about two regular unlikable dullards ~ there is no need at all for the vampiric angle. As much as I love an old fashioned love story, this one was so uninteresting what with its tedious plot and flat characters that I could barely get through it without skimming. Sadly, the only thing going for it was its short length.

Finishing up the sextette is Tanith Lee’s odd, atmospheric tale called The Isle Is Full of Noises about an author obsessed by a man who has ignored her for decades. She gets her revenge by writing him into all of her books. His fictional character suffers hardships and usually comes to a painful and untimely end. Yse’s current vampiric novel becomes a big part of The Isle Is Full of Noises and is interesting, if a bit slow moving. Somewhere along the line Yse’s fantasy and reality begin to merge and I found the end result quite puzzling and a little vague and, as a result, this story was not one of my favorites.

Like most of these collections, The Vampire Sextette, ends up being a bit of a mixed bag.