Published: 15 January, 1982 by Pocket
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I work in a special library, rather than a public or academic one. That means that our collection is mostly work-related documents, rather than fun reading. But we have a staff book exchange there, and sometimes you come across a real gem. Right before I left for vacation, I was shelving books and came across The Hunger by Whitley Streiber. I have a thing for reading pulpy trash, and the cover really sucked me in. (Get it? Vampires? I know, I know, terrible pun…)
Given that from the cover it looked like some 1980s nonsense, I was pleasantly surprised by The Hunger. The main character of the story is a vampire named Miriam. Vampires are first and foremost their own species, but they can turn humans into something similar to themselves. However, instead of immortality, these humans that have been turned live an extended but finite life, until one day they wake up and all of the years that they have lived catch up to them in a matter of days, and they wither away into a shell of their former selves. It’s a horrifying and tragic end, and something you’d never wish on anybody.
Miriam doesn’t wish it on anyone. But she is lonely and longs for companionship, and there aren’t may true vampires left. She keeps turning human lovers, sharing a few hundred years with each, and mourning when they meet their eventual demise. And seeing what they end up going through hurts her, and each time she turns someone she swears that she will find a way to save them.
The story opens when Miriam’s lover Tom is beginning to show signs of age. Miriam has already resigned herself to losing him, and has her next victim lined up. But she’s also learned about a scientist named Sarah who is studying the relationship between sleep and aging, and she thinks that Sarah’s work might mean that she can find a cure for all of her previous lovers who have withered. It’s also a risk, because it means letting someone from the scientific community learn about vampires, and Miriam knows that revealing oneself never ends well. But Sarah is also a person with agency, and she has no intention of becoming a pawn.
The Hunger makes a great beach read that’s both fun and accessible, but it is also more thoughtful than I expected. It’s kind of a blend between sci-fi and fantasy, and tries to take vampires from being legendary creatures to something that fits within the order of our world, from ancient times to modern ones. If you are into vampire lore, I’d definitely recommend it.