Writer(s): Bram Stocker.
Publisher: Canterbury Classics.
Release Date: September 1st, 2011.
Original Release Date: May 26th, 1897.
Genre(s): Classics, Horror, Fantasy.
My Overall Rating:
As if sleep isn’t already a difficult task for many, there’s nothing like the knowledge of an unknown and mysterious undead roaming the night to replenish itself on your blood to keep, just about anyone, up, wide awake and cowering in fear. Serving as the ultimate and definitive form of a vampire, Count Dracula is one of the most dominant mythologized creatures that has been used and reused across countless various mediums, effortlessly allowing his reputation to precede him as any character confronted with his presence has them running amok in search of garlic and objects to form crosses. Despite numerous adaptations of the character plaguing the world, Bram Stocker’s novel, published in 1897, remains a quintessential piece of horror now indubitably tagged as a must-read classic.
What is Dracula about? The story begins with newly-appointed real estate agent Jonathan Harker who visits Count Dracula at his castle in the Carpathian Mountains, with the latter hoping to find and purchase a new home near London. Despite being told to remain in his chambers during the night, Jonathan Harker’s foray into the castle leads to an inadvertent discovery, pitting him up against terrifying beings, miserably vulnerable and at their mercy. What follows is an adventure surrounding a motley of peculiar characters experiencing and witnessing odd things until they join forces with Professor Abraham Van Helsing who ultimately sends them on the hunt of a lifetime.
“There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.”— Bram Stocker
Written in an epistolary form, with letters, newspaper clippings, diary entries, and ships’ logs, the story immediately establishes a realistic tone whilst sacrificing story-telling pacing, thus making the few action-packed moments bring incredible relief and hope to the reader, hope that there’s so much more to this than a tale of fear of the unknown, friendships, and romance. The variety in viewpoints, not limited to Jonathan Harker, as one would expect going into this novel, also dilutes the story’s focus, with numerous instances of pure mundanity or repetitious prattle barely adding anything worthwhile to the core narrative. Despite the nature of said descriptions offering very little substance for the reader’s own journey to discovering Dracula’s domain, these lush writing exercises undeniably highlight the author’s beautiful way with words, making the reading endeavour far less boresome than it actually is.
Surprisingly enough, there are very few moments throughout the book that actually contains Count Dracula. This realization halfway into the book made me slog through many letters, especially those that served the only purpose of creating a gloomy and gothic atmosphere in the story. The lack of urgency throughout most of the narrative also forbids any form of connection with the characters and their plight. It was only when things got intense (e.g. actual violence and evil in the air) that the story got intriguing but the little of that made for a rough read in the end. Nonetheless, it is difficult not to encourage curious minds to pick up this classic piece of literature if not only to discover the mythology at the heart of vampire lore.
Dracula is an elegantly written mythologization of vampires, however, oddly paced, and weighed down by its superficial yet atmospheric descriptions.