Review: Dracula the Un-Dead

Dracula the Un-Dead
Dracula the Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m so very torn by this book. On the one hand, it was an amusing read, and I don’t feel the time was wasted. On the other, it’s decidedly atrocious in many ways, and drove me to fits at times.

All in all, I have to give it higher than average marks for at least making an attempt, and being enjoyable when it could. It’s certainly worth exploring if you’re a vampire or Dracula fan, if only to say you’ve done so, and it’s certainly better than a lot of the drek that comes out with the “dark prince”‘s name on it.

The bad? There’s some godawful writing in here. Sentences that make me cringe. Dangling words that look as though they were in previous revisions of the sentence and just never removed during editing. Easily the worst offender is “We must expedite our plan more swiftly.” So, you need to hurry up your plan faster? I’ve sense mentally reconciled it to either “We must execute our plan more swiftly” or just dropped the “more swiftly” entirely, but it still hurt.

There’s also lots of places where possible spoilers get blown early by what appears to be either laziness or uncorrected errors; the most notable is at least one instance where Dr. Seward, who has continually mentioned his “Benefactor” replaces that word with “Basarab.” Then goes back to “Benefactor” until his exit from the script. If we’re supposed to be in the dark as to the identity of the Benefactor is until he is properly revealed, having that one instance of Basarab sort of screws it up. Not that it’s all that surprising.

Second? Surprises. Why is that bad? Because there aren’t any. Gosh, the Romanian actor who so vehemently defends Dracula to one of our heroes and happens to have the name of a Romanian royal dynasty, who just so happens to be a master swordsman and seems to always be in the right place at the right time and an uncanny knack for surviving fatal injuries is actually Dracula? Gasp! Shock! Horror! Mina Harker’s son, who is continually noted as being a bone of contention between her and her husband, turns out to actually be Dracula’s love child? No, say it ain’t so, Chuck!

Third? Dangling threads. We get a lovely section – and it’s one of the better written parts, too – discussing how the Countess Bathory came to be such a spiteful, hateful creature. It all goes so very well, and is interesting and seems to be setting things up, but just when we’re getting to the “good stuff,” we stop and never come back to it. So we know she was a lesbian, abused by first her husband and then her aunt, and she came to curse both God and men about the things she suffered, but we never actually see why, when or how she finally snapped and went off the deep end. It’s only made worse by noting the connection between her and Dracula, and touching on it again later when you find out Dracula “killed” her, but was not the one who turned her. She makes a great show about telling him that someone molded her into the devil to destroy him, someone who hates him and has always hated him, but we never learn who. Dracula does, by reading her mind. But they don’t feel the need to tell us, which just seems silly and sloppy. Don’t hype there being a reason if you’re not actually going to give us the reason.

Now, to the good. The characters are fascinating, and seeing the broken husks of our brave adventurers, who were so mighty and glorious and shining and optimistic (with just a touch of sorrow) in the original novel, does this body good. Admittedly, I’m also a fan of ‘Salem’s Lot and King’s discussion of how he wanted something pessimistic, that shows that science and technology have rotted us out and left us empty and open to the vampire, when previously they were the things that saved us from him, has always stuck with me. It seemed like a good bookend. Seeing each individual’s reaction to that dark time in their lives, and the fears and secrets they still carry, suited me quite well. The happy ending implied by the last few pages of the original is discarded for religious zealotry, repressed passion, alcoholism and depression, and it’s delightful. They’re surprisingly well written, as well, given how some of the other passages go.

Dracula/Basarab especially pleases me; he seems to embody the idea that “the villain is the hero in his own story.” Admittedly, he actually basically is the hero here, but he explanations of his actions in the original work well without destroying the feel of the old piece. And, as our authors point out, Dracula, his Brides and Lucy (post transformation) didn’t get the courtesy of having their journals in the original work, so the villain’s actions were shown only by those attempting to kill it simply based on “Oh, it must be evil, it lives in the dark and eats blood!”

Last thing. And I’m not one to notice these sorts of things, usually. But Mina. Oh, Mina. She’s well done in nearly every respect, emotionally sympathetic and yet reprehensible (sometimes in the same paragraph) and full of contradictions. But the discussions of her and Dracula’s relationship are delicious, and the sex scenes are probably the best low-key descriptions I’ve read of such acts in years. Downvote if you like, but this is a very sexy novel in places, and I liked that about it.

Overall, it was interesting and fun. Worth reading if you’re into this sort of thing. Could have been better, but I will take what I can get.

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