Review: Dead Brides / Author: Edgar Allan Poe / Publisher: Oneiros Books / Release Date: Out Now
Edgar Allan Poe does vampire fiction. Sort of. Dead Brides contains the five vampiric stories written by master of horror Poe between 1835 and 1842. Most of them may be less well known than The Tell-Tale Heart or his poem The Raven, but they're still classic Poe, all the same. And in the case of The Fall of the House of Usher, one of them is a bona fide classic.
The Fall of the House of Usher is perhaps the most famous story in both the book and of Poe's career. The typically Gothic story involves a dragon (or an internal story about one, anyway), a castle and a haunted, disturbed friend of the narrator. The vampiric link is a fairly subtle one; no slicked-back Transylvanian bloodsuckers for this tale.
None of Poe's vampires are what you might describe as 'traditional' vampire stories though. After all, you don't become a master of horror by trading in cliché. The other stories included the book are Berenice, Morella, Ligeia and The Oval Portrait. In Berenice, we have a young lady who begins to develop vampiric symptoms while her cousin, suffering from monomania, looks on. It's a grim, violent story (famed as one of Poe's most violent, in fact) and terrified readers upon its publication in 1835. It's unlikely to scare anyone quite so much nowadays, but it retains a certain power. That last tale, The Oval Portrait, went on to inspire Oscar Wilde's The Portrait of Dorian Gray. The influence of Edgar Allan Poe is undeniable.
In spite of the very high quality of the stories, Dead Brides will do little to entice new readers. Aside from an introduction by horror writer James Havoc and foreword by H.P. Lovecraft, there's only the illustrations and a short essay on Fall of the House of Usher to recommend it for. Harry Clarke's Gothic, sinister illustrations certainly set the mood, complementing the stories perfectly and being the best thing about the book other than Poe himself.
On the basis of the stories, Dead Brides is a perfect 10/10. But going on the overall package, it's a little no-frills. Those unfamiliar with these tales or with Poe in general should enjoy the book. Everyone else should have read it already.