Most helpful positive review
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
A must-have for vampire fans
on January 4, 2001
Ramsland's name should be familiar to fans of Anne Rice; she's the author of THE VAMPIRE COMPANION and PRISM OF THE NIGHT: A BIOGRAPHY OF ANNE RICE among others. In PIERCING THE DARKNESS, though, Ramsland moves somewhat beyond her academic interest in the Great Mother of the Vampires into the shadowy world of "real" vampires in America. And if a fault can be found with this book, I believe it's here at the most fundamental level, when Ramsland fails to define her terms to a degree which I could find satisfying. Ostensibly she has chosen to follow in the footsteps of another journalist, Susan Walsh, who disappeared in 1996 while investigating vampire cults in Manhattan. However it seems clear to me that Walsh is something of an excuse for Ramsland, and understandably so, since Walsh's story is a cautionary one. Using it as a foundation for her own investigation would be an aid in walking the fine line between investigative journalism and actually becoming involved in the subculture of America's vampires. Unfortunately it's hard to get a fix on Ramsland, and perhaps that's not a bad thing for a journalist in her position who should remain professionally non-judgmental, but I found it disturbing never to know quite what her position was in terms of what constitutes a "real" vampire as opposed to a poseur. Indeed, she has a discussion along these lines with another investigator, but I found no answer there either.
Never mind all that, though, because the book itself is eminently readable and the subject matter fascinating to anyone who enjoys vampires in film and literature. I would strongly caution readers with delicate sensibilities to give this book a pass, though, since it deals with some very disturbing subject matter: descriptions of blood-letting, sexuality which some consider highly deviant, accounts of body modification and the like all serve to make this book a walk on the dark side. Ramsland is innately honest and doesn't flinch from the grotesque or bloody, nor from describing it, though without recourse to sensationalism. And she writes sympathetically about the people she encounters, never putting herself above or beyond them in any way. In fact, one of the most interesting aspects of the book is her own responses to what she uncovers, her fascination with and willingness to enter this milieu.
For those who find the subject worth investigating further, Ramsland provides a good bibliography, and an excellent list of vampire resources both on and off the net. For my money this book is a fascinating read and well worth your time if you're a vampire aficionado. Highly recommended.