Saturday, May 1, 2010

Premature Book Review: Dracula

Now, I may just be cashing in some nerd cred, but I try to be honest. First offense: I have never seen the 1931 Bella Lugosi Dracula. Second: I am just now reading Bram Stoker's book. There. Shun me if you must, but honesty is the best policy.

Now I am reading Stoker's book. It is enjoyable, if a tad long. Also, it is no wonder that the films are so far removed from the text. It took forever to get Johnathan Harker out of the Count's castle, and it took forever for Lucy Westenra to die.

Now, aside from this movie/book relationship, the book is very enjoyable. Stoker does a nice job of making a mystery of the story; even a story we all know in basic terms. The heroes are often baffled by the Count, and do not automatically recognize when the Count is making a move. Because the story is so well known, it is easy to think, at times, "of course the Count is working with Renfield," but logically, there is no reason for the characters to know or expect this, and the way Stoker lets the story develop is part of why it is such a classic story.

A big problem I have is how Renfield gets such a cursory role in most movies. I recently saw Jess Franco's Count Dracula with Christopher Lee, which featured Klaus Kinski as Renfield. I figured, no one is going to do Renfield like Kinski, but his role was so tiny... Ah, well.

So. Read this one, if you like horror. It is likely the most important piece of horror fiction of all time.


Jamdin said...

I highly recommend reading The Book of Renfield: A Gospel of Dracula by Tim Lucas and Renfield: Slave of Dracula by Barbara Hambly. The first gives more insight into the madman as learned by Dr. John Steward while the latter is in his own point of view.

Of course, my favorite Dracula-related book is The Dracula Tape by Fred Saberhagen.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I'll have to check those out. Thanks.

Nathan said...

I just read this book a few years ago. I can't find my review of it, but I remember thinking that the narrative structure was interesting, but also a bit unrealistic.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I am a little torn. Since we all know thew story, it is hard for it to be fresh. My biggest problem with the narrative is that it is all journals, but everyone has similar writing styles, and they all transcribes Van Helsing in the same way. I don't think anyone's journal is that detailed.

Nathan said...

Yeah, I don't know that too many people write in dialect in their journals, which is what they all did with Van Helsing.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Maybe they were all Faulkner fans? :-D

Neil Sarver said...

I have a weird obsession with this novel that I can't fully explain except that I read it very young and it stuck with me. I like the epistolary nature of it myself. It works for me.

When Marvel briefly rebooted Epic for public submissions, I started writing a reboot of "Tomb of Dracula" that used the epistolary format in a more modern way, including a character who blogged.

But then I first read it when I was very young and perhaps it just stuck with me.

I second the high recommendation for "Renfield: A Gospel of Dracula" by Tim Lucas. And apparently now need to go hunt down that Barbara Hambly book!

Darius Whiteplume said...

Now that I am getting to crunch time in the book, I am liking it even more. The vampire hunters have gotten to Varna, and the Count has slipped away. I get the feeling Stoker knew his readers would see the Count meet his end and tried his best to keep the tension up. I wonder how new a concept the "journal entry" style of novel was at the time? They had to start somewhere. Certainly other books are done this way from a single or even double perspective, but here we have four major characters taking up the expository reins.

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