Dracula the Un-Dead
Classics do not happen overnight. Time is their standard, and in the case of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, time has proven an invaluable ally, much as it was for the novel’s irresistible lead. Since publication in 1897, Dracula has accomplished far more than sell millions of copies and inspire countless incarnations; it has left an indelible mark on our cultural consciousness. There have been numerous sequels, yet none carried the Stoker family endorsement until now.
Dracula the Un-Dead employs Stoker’s original title and was penned jointly by Stoker’s great-grand-nephew and a Dracula historian; using notes left by Stoker and excised portions of his original text, the authors have constructed the perfect 21st-century sequel to a tale that has enthralled generations before them. But readers expecting a return to the brooding sexually-charged ambiance of the original will be disappointed. This time, the unlikely heroes who set out to destroy Dracula are semi-destroyed themselves, even as a new menace stalks them. The Count takes his time before appearing, leaving the stage open to an amoral Elizabeth Bathory and trio of vampiric lovers, who hiss and dismember their way through 1912 London. Unable to resist the temptation to employ every Hollywood vampire cliché known, the authors reduce Bathory to a predictable monster.
The rest of the cast doesn’t fare much better. While there’s plenty of action, this sequel reads as though it were translated for the screen, with enough gore to satisfy the lustiest horror fan. Toss in an additional Ripper subplot and you have next summer’s blockbuster. Unfortunately, none of it does justice to the Gothic subtleties of the original; indeed, you might say it’s about as subtle as a stake through the heart.
I took this book for review because I’ve never read the original Dracula, and I wanted to see if the novel would stand up for someone who had not read its predecessor.
The action, and there’s a lot of it, takes place 25 years later. The central character is Quincey Harker, son of Jonathan and Mina Harker. Quincey’s parents, along with Dr. Van Helsing, Arthur Holmwood, Quincey P. Morris, and Dr. Jack Seward, had formed the heroic band who dispatched Dracula for ever; or had they?
Quincey Harker abandons his law studies in Paris for the stage in London, where he forces his unwanted help upon an adaptation of Dracula, written and directed by Bram Stoker himself. Quincey succeeds in persuading the charismatic Romanian actor Basarab to play Dracula. Quincey’s troubles are made far worse when a series of gruesome murders begins. Has Dracula returned?
Dracula the Un-Dead is meant as an entertainment, and I shall not judge it otherwise. Set aside, then, the innumerable historical, cultural, geographical, linguistic, and technological errors. Ignore the high-pressure melodramatic prose; it is a melodrama, after all. There is only one standard to assess this novel by: is it entertaining? It certainly is, and so it is a roaring, flashing, blood-soaked success.