An excellent book performed by highly talented people. Several times I felt the anxiety of the characters. The language of the book seemed to me poetic and of a by gone era. Simply wonderful.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Despite the many vampire books, movies, and TV shows adapting or following it, Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) remains absorbing, suspenseful, and even moving. One of the interesting things about the novel is that Stoker tells the story through "real" letters, diaries, memoranda, telegrams, and newspaper articles written, dictated, and compiled by the eyewitness characters (excluding the Count). In addition to providing thought-provoking perspectives on marriage, sexuality, class, community, culture (east and west), and religion, Stoker's book established numerous vampire rules: aristocratic lineage, superhuman strength and speed, undead immortality, shapeshifting and beast controlling powers, formidable cunning, sensual cruelty, absence of reflection in mirrors, abhorrence of crucifixes and garlic, susceptibility to decapitation and stakes through the heart, sun allergy, etc. And it is complex on gender, containing cringe-inducing lines like, "Why are we women so unworthy of good men?" while developing Mina Harker as its most on the ball and brave character, the real leader of "the Fellowship of the Count," capable of empathizing with Dracula as a "poor soul. . . the saddest case of all."
The novel begins with the young solicitor Jonathan Harker's diary account of his trip from England to Transylvania to help Count Dracula prepare to relocate to London. After receiving the two-fingered sign and the sign of the cross from locals and hearing them mutter about Satan, Hell, werewolves, and vampires, Harker writes with unwitting irony, "I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so my stay may be very interesting. (Mem., I must ask the Count all about them.)" Dracula lives in "a vast ruined castle, from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the sky." He has a cruel mouth, "peculiarly pointed canine teeth," and hair on the palms of his hands and says things like, "Listen to them, the children of the night, what music they make" when wolves are howling. Harker soon realizes that he's Dracula's prisoner and that the Count wants to get among the teeming streets of England for no philanthropic purposes.
Meanwhile, Mina, still Jonathan's fiance, and her best friend Lucy Westrana exchange innocent and romantic letters with ominous overtones, and Dr. Seward, one of Lucy's suitors, records his journal on phonograph cylinders, mulling over a charismatic patient in his lunatic asylum, a "homicidal zoophagous maniac" called Renfield who eats flies, spiders, and sparrows and says he's waiting for "the Master" to show up.
Having experienced many of the vampire-themed works of popular culture, I did at times hear the joints of their granddaddy creak. I found myself muttering, "Pay attention to the peasants, Harker!" Or "Quincey P. Morris' slang, trigger-happy bat shooting, and Winchesters are a little too 'American.'" Or "Good grief, guys--you know about Lucy and you know that Dracula's set up housekeeping right next door and you've found Mina to be at least as intelligent and brave as a man and yet to spare her from trauma you exclude her from your counsels and leave her alone at night without placing any garlic flowers around her bed?"
But more often I thought things like, "I want a paprika recipe or a twelve inch, nail studded, Slovak leather belt." Or "Those are some sublime sunset mountains." Or "I'd be in trouble if Dracula's brides cornered me on a sofa." Or "The count crawling head first down his castle wall like a lizard is creepy." Or "Poor Renfield is unforgettable." Or "The polygamous implications of taking or giving blood are interesting." Or "Kids really do incorporate scary and gruesome events and situations into their play." Or "This snow-swirling, wolf-howling, gypsy-fleeing, party-converging mountain scene is exciting and nearly recalls The Lord of the Rings!"
There are plenty of neat lines in Dracula, like these:
--"She makes quite a beautiful corpse"
--"The attitude of the two had a terrible resemblance to a child forcing a kitten's nose into a saucer of milk to compel it to drink."
--"You might as well ask a man to eat molecules with a pair of chopsticks, as to try to interest me about the lesser carnivera, when I know what is before me."
--"It is a strange world."
I just listened to the Audible "all-star cast" audiobook of Dracula. Alan Cumming is fine as Dr. Seward; he doesn't really change his sensitive, slightly raspy voice to perform different characters when speaking for Renfield, Dracula, Mina, etc. in Seward's diary, but convincingly expresses their different emotions. Simon Vance is OK as Jonathan Harker, Susan Duerden suitably soft and weak as Lucy Westenra, and Tim Curry great as Van Helsing. Unfortunately, Katherine Kellgren over-reads Mina Harker, often emphasizing words that don't merit the extra attention ("ONE LONG granite wall stretching out to sea") and imposing a circular rhythm onto Stoker's prose ("I do not remember ANYthing until the MORNing when Jonathan WOKE me"). I recoiled from her strident sections.
Another problem with this production is that because multiple characters write Van Helsing's utterances in their diaries, multiple readers variously speak the Dutch doctor's lines: Cumming uses his Dr. Seward voice, Vance a pseudo Germanic one with "v" for "w," and Kellgren a thick ersatz Russian (?) accent. Stoker only signals that Van Helsing is speaking English as a second language through foreign syntax and grammar, so I wish Vance and Kellgren had tried to approximate Curry's mild accent.
If you like the vampire or supernatural adventure genres, you should read this seminal novel, but I'd recommend the superb audiobook with Greg Wise reading the men's documents and Saskia Reeves the women's rather than the Audible one.
I went in expecting to be oh so bored as I often am with so-called classics. I thought I'd quit after a few chapters. But this book was not at all the chore to read I was expecting, especially with this talented cast reading it. Recommending to friends and looking forward to going through it again inside a year or two.
The ensemble performance fits very well with the style of the book being a series of letters and journals from various characters. This was a very fun and engaging presentation of a true classic.
The performance by the cast is great, Alan Cummings plays an excellent Dr. Seward, the voice actor's for Jonathan Harker & Abraham Van Helsing are incredible. The only thing close to a bad performance is the voice actor for Lucy is nearly unbearable at times, it's a mix of an extremely odd cadence and an almost soap-opera-esque feel to it.
The story is a Victorian gothic novel, so expect a lot of antiquated terms, sometimes difficult to follow statements, and an overall sexist and racist overtone to most of the speech around the women and the foreigners of the novel. That said its a book of its time, with all the beautiful and meandering speech, occasionally one-dimensional characters, and overall a tone of a time gone by. That all might sound negative but I like this book, and this is a really good version of this book read aloud.
I really can't comment on the book itself because It's classic but it was different "reading" a book written in 1897. The cadence is different from how we speak now which caused the story line to drag at times.
The actors though???? AWESOME. Alan Cumming was amazing. Highly recommend.
This audiobook is one of the best I've ever listened to. The full cast, as opposed to a single narrator, makes it a much more enjoyable experience.
Alan Cumming as Dr. Seward, Tim Curry as Van Helsing, and the voice actress for Mina Harker were all phenomenal.
I've only seen Tim Curry and Alan Cumming in various shows and movies, but hearing them in these roles was very nice.
I definitely understand why Dracula is a horror novel. There were several moments that actually scared me. But I also cried during a few points for the main characters.
There's a problem with the audio where, in a few places, a section that has just been done will be repeated.
Excellent listen. The cast is incredible and tells this well known story in an amazing way.