Monday, July 5, 2010

Draining the Lifeblood ...

Out of the Dracula Canon.

Yep, this will be a review of Dracula: The Undead by Dacre Stoker. Now, first off - I thinkt he title of this post is slightly misleading. It is not a bad book - far from. However, it does kind of warp the Dracula tale so much that it would be near impossible to renew it. In my opinion, of course.

Anyways, synopsis!

Bram Stoker's Dracula is the prototypical horror novel, an inspiration for the world's seemingly limitless fascination with vampires. Though many have tried to replicate Stoker's horror classic-in books, television shows, and movies, only the 1931 Bela Lugosi film bore the Stoker family's support. Until now.

Dracula The Un-Dead is a bone-chilling sequel based on Bram Stoker's own handwritten notes for characters and plot threads excised from the original edition. Written with the blessing and cooperation of Stoker family members, Dracula The Un-Dead begins in 1912, twenty-five years after Dracula "crumbled into dust." Van Helsing's protégé, Dr. Jack Seward, is now a disgraced morphine addict obsessed with stamping out evil across Europe. Meanwhile, an unknowing Quincey Harker, the grown son of Jonathan and Mina, leaves law school for the London stage, only to stumble upon the troubled production of "Dracula," directed and produced by Bram Stoker himself.

The play plunges Quincey into the world of his parents' terrible secrets, but before he can confront them he experiences evil in a way he had never imagined. One by one, the band of heroes that defeated Dracula a quarter-century ago is being hunted down. Could it be that Dracula somehow survived their attack and is seeking revenge? Or is their another force at work whose relentless purpose is to destroy anything and anyone associated with Dracula?

Dracula The Un-Dead is deeply researched, rich in character, thrills and scares, and lovingly crafted as both an extension and celebration of one of the most classic popular novels in literature.

That is from the official website of the book, which can be found here: .

At first, I have to say - I never thought Dracula was one of those classics that needed a sequel. That being said, as far as sequels go - it was good. The timing and pace mimics the original, the Gothic tone and the Victorian language contrasting with the now more graphic details and explicitness. That strikes a nice mix with me, and I know it's not for everyone - kind of like a Pride, Prejudice and Zombies mix, so I can understand that most people (the Purists, and so forth) won't like it, but I think it is a well done tone and it carries the reader forwards through the times after the original battle.

And that is what this book is about - what happens after the heroes go home? What happens when the heroes go home somewhat victorious and yet they never forget the horrors - never forget what they each have done, what the others have been forced to do? Etc. It is that kind of story.

And it picks up a quarter of a century after the battle - which makes sense, since that's when the hope and patience and the general good feelings of the past victories are now completely marred with inaction, anxiety, loss and regret. Among other things.

Mina and Jonathan are now strangers to one another - a fact never so poignant as the flashback Mina has to the first time she met Jonathan - so full of life and hope and love. Their marriage is a sham marriage, Jonathan whiling the time away with prostitutes and drinking, Mina mourning over the loss of her best friend and the still unspoken of love between her and Dracula. Their son, Quincey (named after The Quincey, yes) is a spoiled "artist" who fancies himself an actor and runs off to Paris to pretend to be at law school while secretly acting on the side. He bears a hate for his father that makes no sense to me - and this would be my only problem with the book - but since Quincey is the main character, is it a major problem.

Because Quincey is irritating.

Not just irritating, but spoiled and irritating. You spend half the book thinking he'd better be the next dead body and the other half of the book trying to figure out what the heck his motivation is. He seems too emotional, too irrational - too much like a 15 year old and not a 25 year old.

But other then him - the other characters are enticing, even the villain - Elizabeth Bathory (I will save my rant on women villains for later) is so well conceived that she jumps off the page. Though there are many questions left as to her origins and such (I suspect this is one in a series of sequels) as an antagonist she is coherent and quick witted, her recollections (of which there are too few) are poignant and severe. Amazing.

The plot itself is a little convuluted. There were times I was confused as to what was going on, but for the most part - the actions of the characters work - the deaths are meaningful, the sacrifices are felt - it is a good mix.

I think that there ought to have been more of a emphasis on the recollections of Bathory and Mina, and the way the original troupe had fallen apart. I think that Dracula's late introduction ought to have been more explored - where the heck has he been for twenty five years? And I would have made Quincey less a baby - because at the end, when he is supposed to have grown up - he is still irritating.

All in all - it is a good book. Mind, it is not absolutely amazing, but it is a good sequel - and that's what it's meant to be!

There are a few other Dracula sequels over the years that I have liked:

  • Kim Newman's Anno Dracula series
  • Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian
  • Freda Warrington's Dracula the Undead
  • Kate Cary Bloodline (and its sequel)

Dracula has been a cool character that's been analyzed a million times. Not my favourite (I have always been a Wolf man type of girl) but still immensely complex and worth pursuing. If you're interested there are a million resources I can direct you to - and I know everyone is sick of vampires (except me), but when it's done right, it's worth the read - despite the vampire insanity currently on the tubes.

Anyways, cheers! :)

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