I’m not sure why, but it’s a truism that people like myself (nerds/geeks/gamers) love lists. We’re never so happy as when we’ve created or acquired a large collection of information, especially in a cross-indexed, easy to reference form. Making sense of things and having data on hand is satisfying on a truly visceral level. The fact that the information itself is useful and/or fun is a bonus. Given all of that, it should be no surprise that I immediately took to Actual Factual: Dracula – A Compendium of Vampires.
From a technical perspective, the book is presented quite nicely. Almost five hundred pages long, the PDF is quite small in size. Presumably this is due to the small amount of artwork. There are only a handful of pictures here, all of them black and white and found at the beginning of each alphabetical chapter; it should be noted that the cover displayed on the product page isn’t found in the PDF of the book, however. I also wished that bookmarks had been used, as that would have made it helpful to zip around to various sections.
AcFac:Drac is, as the subtitle says, a compendium of vampires. All of the creatures detailed herein are from real-world myth and folklore, as opposed to creatures made up purely for novels, TV shows, etc.; no glitter-wearing Twilight vampires here. However, vampire aficionados are likely to note that it’s difficult to pin down what, exactly, constitutes a “vampire” in mythology, since there can be similar creatures that are called demons, or ghosts, etc. instead of being vampires per se. Interestingly, the book largely side-steps the issue of nomenclature by taking a very inclusive stance, declaring that for the purposes of what it includes, a “vampire” is anything that must consume the life essence of people on a (semi)regular basis in order to sustain itself. Thus, blood-drinking animate corpses fit right in alongside soul-eating demonic spirits. Any unnatural creature that devours (parts of) us is a vampire.
If that sounds like it’d pump up the number of creatures in this book, it does. There are nearly a thousand entries here, all neatly listed in alphabetical order. Each entry has a variety of attributes, including Type (is it a corpse? Demon? Ghost?) Abilities (what are its powers?) Prey (who does it hunt?), Modus Operandi (how does it hunt?), Weaknesses (what hurts it?), Destruction (what kills it?) and many others. In fact, there are a large number of possible attributes for each monster…the thing is, not all of them are present for each creature. Presumably, this is simply because some creatures don’t have that information included in the myths and legends about them, though in some cases this is because a given vampire is just a variant of another (with a SEE listing pointing you to that entry). Frighteningly, a few vampires don’t have certain attributes because they have no weaknesses…or simply cannot be destroyed.
The truly great part of this book, however, is found in its indexing. In addition to a standard alphabetical index, it has a whopping nine additional indexes that catalogue the monsters herein via various key attributes, such as their appearance, how to find them, or method of creation. This is brilliant organization and really makes it fast and easy to zero in on exactly what you’re searching for without having to know precisely what type of vampire you’re dealing with. Something eating babies in your neighborhood? Just flip to that section in the Prey index, and you’ll be able to start researching what you’re likely up against.
This book is nothing short of a must for vampire fans, as its thorough research and exhaustive indexing results in a tome that not only stimulates the imagination, but is easy to use and incredibly referential. Whether you need a new monster for your role-playing session, want a creature for your next great fantasy novel, or just want to know what to watch out for the next time you hear a bump in the night, this resource is the only guide to vampires you’ll ever need.
[5 of 5 Stars!]