IT’S DONE! It took me half a year but it’s finished. It’s done. My Horror Book Challenge is now officially concluded with my completion of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’m going to write a separate blog post about what it was like to read literally nothing but horror for months at a time and what that did to me. But for the meantime, let me focus on this horror classic. I made the mistake of leaving this till last, I had no method in how I chose what to read next and eventually while I was randomly selecting books I decided I’d leave this till last. HUGE mistake. Did I like it? Oh absolutely! It was an amazing book, buuuuuuut when you’re getting ready to take a break from horror novels, you shouldn’t leave the longest and the densest book for last. I realized I should’ve read them as they had been published, ie. Dracula first. It was a struggle and I will be honest, I had to cheat and listen to the audiobooks to help me get through it faster. When I didn’t have a chance to sit down and read I’d listen to chapters to help the process hurry along because just sitting and reading it was taking me fooooooorever! But I’m done now and ready to review it all! Bram Stoker’s name is still synonymous with horror, Dracula is still considered one of the scariest villains, and this book is still one of the scariest books out there. Here’s why:
The Main Character(s)
Now initially this book starts off entirely through John Harker’s perspective, but as the book progresses you get the perspective of 4 main characters – Jonathan, Mina, Van Helsing and Dr.Seaward. Without question Mina’s and Dr. Seaward’s chapters were the best and most interesting chapters. Mina is literally the group’s most useful member and it’s infuriating to read this book from the early 1900s because….well….ooooh the sexism. Often Mina would get compliments such as “you’re quite level headed for a woman” or “while most women can’t handle a shock like this, you can and it makes you very strong”. These were real compliments she received. And the worst part was, she was either flattered by these or she herself would say similar things about other women! It was absurd and yet she was the one who built the timeline from all of their journals, she figured out Dracula was drinking her blood before they all did, she figured out where Dracula was located, she figured out how to attack him and she’s the one who brought their group together. And yet at various points these men were like “let’s leave her out of this fellas! It’s too much for a woman to handle! Now to go in there with no plan at all and attack! Sports! Beer! Guns! Cars!” It was infuriating to read and I’m 99% sure if this book was published in 2016 that Mina would be the full out main character and the one to kill Dracula. In fact after she figures out where Dracula and his minions are and basically figures out their plan of attack, they bring her along and then she doesn’t do anything! The boys kill Dracula and his three minions and beat their chest about it. It was terrible in that regards, but then you have to remember this book was written in 1897. Overall I loved each of the main characters – except who Jonathan Harker who did nothing but cry and whine the entire time and who’s only contribution to every plan was to charge in and attack without a plan. Their group dynamic made it a very fun read and I think if you remove Mina from their dynamic and the entire group would’ve been dead by page 200.
Dracula. Oh what can I say about him that hasn’t been said a thousand times!? Only this. This – his original portrayal – was the creepiest and most badass portrayal of Dracula I’ve ever seen. He was equal parts creepy, charming and vicious. The first few chapters in his castle you really saw the sociopathic like tendencies where he was overly polite, hospitable and yet manipulative. As the story progressed and you saw his interactions with the main group you saw how cold and violent he could be. They often described the look in his eyes as one of pure hatred and of a demonic force. The part that really grabbed me was his attacks on Mina. I’ve seen so many adaptations of this story and it’s always portrayed as Dracula falling for Mina and trying to take her as his bride. That’s what I was expecting but instead what I got was a Dracula who was trying to kill Harker’s wife simply out of revenge. He wanted to turn her into one of his brides for the simple reason of revenge and spite. He took the purest of the group that was pursuing him and tried to corrupt her. There was no love story between the two, there was no scene where Mina cradles him in her arms as he dies. Instead what you read was “oh you want to kill me? I’m going to kill your wife!” So really this just made him all the more vicious. Overall he really wasn’t in the story all that much which just made his few appearances all the better. It was moreso a special treat when he’d appear and each scene was dramatic. The rest of the time he remained off in the distance and the focus was on the group preparing for the next interaction. It’s obvious now why he’s one of the most terrifying and badass villains in horror history.
Reading this book in 2016 certainly isn’t the scariest thing. During the entire section where Lucy was dying due to constant attacks by Dracula I just kept yelling “SHE’S CLEARLY BEING ATTACKED BY A VAMPIRE YOU FOOLS!” At which point I had to remember that vampires didn’t really exist back then. No one knew what they were and thus the characters – other than Van Helsing – had no idea what it was all about. So I had to put myself in the mindset of someone in 1897 and think what I would be thinking while reading this book and truthfully it would be terrifying. But the thing that was still terrifying was that so often Dracula would attack them while they slept and commanded them in their dreams to sleep walk. More often than not this made the characters question if any of this was real or was it all hallucination. This idea of not being able to distinguish between fact or fiction, especially when you’re in a horrifying deadly situation, is terrifying and really made the book that much scarier.
Film/Stage/Comic/Cartoon/Comedy/Million Other Adaptations
I don’t think it’s possible to do any more adaptations of this story or to use its characters any more. Dracula has been re-imagined and re-imagined. I’ve seen him fight Blade through clunky poorly written dialogue (Blade 3), Put on a HORRIBLE American accent (2013 TV Series with Jonathan Rhys Meyers), and I’ve seen him pop out of a movie theatre screen which still gives me nightmares to this day (Are you Afraid of the Dark). Truthfully my favourite adaptation was always Dracula Dead and Loving it. I’m a sucker for Mel Brooks, what can I say. To this day I still laugh at the scene of them killing Vampire Lucy, being drenched in blood and Harker yelling “She’s dead enough!” But while I’m on the subject of Dracula adaptations, let me rant about the 1992 version with quite possibly the worst casting choices ever. I love Gary Oldman and obviously think Anthony Hopkins is brilliant. But let’s get this straight, they cast two Americans (who can’t do British accents….or even act for that matter) as John and Mina? They then cast two Brits as the two eastern European characters? Now I mean Hopkins pulled it off well and Gary Oldman is most definitely a chameleon when it comes to acting but even if acting skills couldn’t get him to match the physicality needed to portray Dracula. Christopher Lee, perfect Dracula. That giant German man who played Count Olaf, perfect Dracula. Short, young Gary Oldman? Not so much! I don’t quite get why anyone liked that movie as it was very poorly acted and just terrible overall. Basically what I’m trying to say is, if you watch any adaptation let it anyone except for the 1992 version!
It’s obvious why this one is a classic and it indeed lives up to the hype that surrounds it. It’s a great horror classic with some scenes that definitely scared me. It wasn’t a bad way to end my book challenge but it certainly wasn’t the most exciting since it was lengthy, dense and dragged on at certain parts (if I had to read about one more blood transfusion I was going to lose it). But overall it was a great read and I’d recommend it to any true vampire fans out there!
Well! That’s it! The Book Challenge is done! It will be a little while before I post another book review because quite frankly I’m a little horror’d out at the moment! I’m going to take a break and finally finish the young adult sci-fi series Softwire. If you like sci-fi of any kind then READ THIS NOW! After I finish the last two books in the series I’m going to return to reading –and reviewing – horror. Till then, I’m off to the Rings of Orbis!