Yes, you read the title right. Someone named ‘Stoker’ wrote a book titled Dracula. No, it’s not the same Stoker as Bram, but close: it’s his great grand-nephew. And yes, it is the same Dracula, but 25 years later.
Like an old pair of pants you slip back on, the book seems oddly familiar and yet strangely different at the same time (provided you still fit in them). The characters are all back, but the 25 years between the last time we saw them and this reconnection have changed them, almost beyond recognition. Van Helsing, the leader of the intrepid band that chased after Dracula 25 years ago is old and dying; Jonathan and Mina Harker are unhappily married with a son who has grown up without knowing of his parents’ past; Arthur Holmwood, Lucy’s fiancé, is now full of anger and bitterness over his loss; his close friend, Dr. Jack Seward, is a drug addict and has lost both his practice and the respect of his peers.
It’s a little distressing to see the protagonists from the classic Bram Stoker Dracula fall from such heroic heights to such conditions. But it’s only natural that the horrific adventures the group went through 25 years earlier left an indelible impression on each of them, affecting them to the point that they are almost unrecognizable. These changes become all the more logical as one works one’s way through the book, which traces the path each one walked in the last 25 years. As understanding dawns, so does a sad acceptance that even the bravest of heroes, who willingly faced evil and death in the name of God and goodness, can sink into a pit of despair.
It’s quite realistic, scarily so, which makes Dracula: The Un-Dead a sequel worthy of the original. The story is a page-turner; the details are gripping; the horror, well, it’s horrifying. It’s a great book to read – albeit an imperfect one.
The original Dracula was written by Bram Stoker and first published in 1897. In (very) short, it tells the story of a band of heroes traveling to Eastern Europe to pursue the evil known as Dracula. Just this month, on October 13th to be exact (too bad it wasn’t a Friday), the sequel, Dracula: the un-dead was published. Written by the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker (Dacre Stoker), the book finds our intrepid band of heroes 25 years later. This book is brilliantly written and a page-turner.
So why was I so uncomfortable reading this book?
Don’t get me wrong, I loved every page of it. The story was spellbinding, so much so that I am currently severely lacking sleep (you try putting this book down!) But there was something that bothered me the instant I cracked it open and was struck by the difference in style between the original and the sequel. After some reflection and a lot of coffee, I have come to realise that this discomfort has a lot to do with the individualistic point of view taken in the sequel, when the original developed the individuality of the characters while always retaining its focus on the group.
In the original, the story is much more intertwined; the characters’ thoughts are less self-centred, and the style focuses on the advancement of groups of people – wife and husband, two rivals, two friends, a student and his mentor – rather than on the advancement of each individual. Each character’s individuality is explored in relation to the others’ as well as in relation to the story. The story is clearly plot-driven.
In the sequel, the story is more focused on each individual rather than on the group; the story is character-driven. While in the original, each character’s individuality stood out, they were still part of a cohesive whole who managed to battle Dracula; the sequel is written in a way that enhances each characters’ individuality.
Another big difference is the level to which each Stoker horrifies their readers. Bram implied a lot, while Dacre describes it all. Bram hints at many things, while Dacre says them straight out. Bram poetically invokes many other things, while Dacre, in true 21st century style, not only says them, but embellishes.
Speaking of which, for the faint of heart: beware. Even if you read Bram Stoker’s original tale, it’s nothing compared to this one. On the plus side, all you students and gore-loving people who might have been slightly disappointed at the relative tameness of the original Dracula will be more than satisfied with the sequel. The descriptions are pretty horrific and stomach-churning.
Out in time for Halloween, this is the perfect book to read while waiting for children to come to your door trick-or-treating. Be warned; by the end of the evening, you might find yourself discriminating, either for or against, any child dressed as a vampire.
If it’s for or against is for you to find out.
This review was first posted here on Blogcritics.