it was great to find out where the vampire genre started, though it was a bit if a let-down as the story drew to an end. Just because it's a classic doesn't necessarily mean a perfect story, and my expectations were a bit ambitious . It took a while to get used to the dated English but other than that, a great experience.
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 love this book, and thought it would be great to listen to, good names doing the readings. Then it got to Mina and the reading was awful. Then Lucy - just as bad! The two actresses are simpering, too breathy, too weak. Not how I imagine the characters at all! I couldn't continue listening.
The original vampire story is well written and modernistic, but still remains a classic and one of the best! I highly recommend it, especially if you can acquire it at no cost...
Despite being an iconic character, I was surprised to realize how very little I knew about the character or the original story of Dracula. I don't read much in the horror genre but found it quite enjoyable. I wouldn't recommend reading certain chapters at night.
Like most classic (Frankenstein, The invisible man) Dracula is not the main or at least is never the point-of-view character. Dracula has decided to leave his home in Transylvania for England and we follow the lives of several different characters in 1800s who are affected by his arrival and dark endeavors. Either by being trapped in his haunted castle, ferrying him across the sea, witnessing the strange illness of a friend, and a patient in an asylum obsessed with eating spiders. They must come together to discover the source of these horrors and if possible defeat it.
Despite falling into 'the men must save the damsel' the author is very aware of this and calls attention to it. The main female character Mina is a strong character who plays a critical role, while staying authentic to the time.
I was hesitant about the narrative style, the story is told through various characters correspondence, memoirs and diaries but it works. The story also uses it to cleverly avoid repetition as it updates characters. The writing style is very literary.
If you like literary fiction (eloquent phrases), classics, or just tired of 'modern' vampires give it a read.