Oct 30

Book Review: Dracula

DraculaDracula by Bram Stoker

This book is a classic for a reason. It has a lot of awesome horror and tension and adventure, with a mystery that probably would have had even more of an impact if I could have gone back in time a hundred years adn read this without knowing how the story went before I started the first page.
Things you’ve probably forgotten/don’t know about the book. Lucy, a young woman is beloved of Mina and four men (one of whom is her fiance), one of whom is Van Helsing. Lucy sleepwalks and becomes prey to the evil Count Dracula. Even though this is a victorian novel, and family members dying is a common and expected event, they’re still torn apart by Lucy’s tragic illness. They struggle mightily to save her, but eventually fail, and Lucy becomes one of the undead. Van Helsing has to convince these men who loved Lucy that the walking beautiful corpse of Lucy is evil, and must be stopped. There’s such pathos in this, even if it’s obscured by the overblown prose of the era.

I can see why it was copied and emulated so much, even as I’m baffled by the pick-and-choose nature of the elements selected for derivative works. For example, subsequent vampire writers have copied the “vampires come in when invited” and “pale, pale skin” and the lascivious nature of the female vampire-victims, but I’ve not seen anyone copy using communion wafers as a barrier to protect vampire victims, or vampires being able to slip through a tiny crack like a roach. Bats they copied, mist and wolves less so, and garlic, but not garlic flowers or wild roses being used to keep something from being opened. People have used vampires sleeping in coffins, but not vampires having to sleep in sacred grave dirt (maybe because of the illogic of being able to re-holy the dirt with a communion wafer to keep vampires out.)

Despite some rather unnecessary speeches, and the objectionable contemporary attitudes towards women, lower class people, and the mentally ill, this novel still works for modern readers. The structure has plenty of mystery, plenty of thriller, and plenty of horror. When Mina is also overcome, you have a race against time to save her, a literal race across Europe. The tension is as brilliantly done as the mystery was, and it has a great ending too.

This novel stands the test of time. I recommend it for people who like horror (assuming you haven’t read it already.)

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