on July 11, 2004
This is the most famous horror story of all. Based on the bloodthirsty Transylvanian ruler Vlad Tepes, otherwise known as the Impaler because of his practice of impaling enemy prisoners-of-war on stakes, "Dracula" is the tale of an evil count who is a vampire. The story has little to do wuth the historical Vlad, but that makes it no less spine-chilling.
This unusual novel is told entirely through diaries and letters of the main characters. Count Dracula buys a property in England through Jonathan Harker. The count seems to have a taste for English ladies' blood, and when he goes after Harker's fiancee Mina, she narrowly escapes, though her friend Lucy was not so lucky. Hunted and on the run, Dracula himself escapes back to Transylvania, hotly pursued by Harker, Professor Van Helsing, and others. This chase and its climax culminates in a thrilling show-down!
author of "Love and Madness"
on September 7, 2003
OK, I want to say something original, as everything said by other reviewers (impeccable novel, interesting essays, etc)is VERY true.
A PLUS: The footnotes. I've found them to be "essential", in the sense that they illuminated the darker (historical references, imagery, sutile actions) paths of Stoker's book.
A MINUS: the tiny letters. This may sound foolish, but it took me forever to adapt to this type of letter. It is as small as it gets, and the lines are VERY close to one another. This should be corrected, because a good edition for readers is as vital as feng shui is to houses (stupid thought, I know, but worth the effort).
I’ve seen many versions of Dracula movies over the years, so decided it was high time to read Bram Stoker’s horror classic. I was curious to see how far the movie versions had strayed from the book. The answer, of course, depends on the movie, but I now understand why cinematic versions pared down many details.
Dracula is a long read, filled with plenty of descriptions and thoughts from key players. The first third of the book is actually three separate stories told through journal entries (the entire book is told through journals). The first comes from Jonathan Harker, describing his harrowing trip to Count Dracula’s castle on legal business. The second is from Jonathan’s fiancée, Mina, and her best friend, Lucy. The third story is told by John Seward, a psychiatrist in charge of an insane asylum, who’s particularly interested in one patient. It’s this last story that most of the movie versions cut. It takes about 200 pages (the book was 605 pages on my iPad) for all three stories to converge. In fact, the whole Dracular-vampire revelation isn’t established until the halfway point.
Still, Stoker intricately weaves all three storylines together while introducing Van Helsing. Despite the pace, the suspense does build, and the action scenes are riveting. It’s just that there are few of them. Stoker focuses on building suspense about whether Dracula will be destroyed in time rather than the battle with Dracula himself. I might be spoiled, but in the movies, the more important the evil player, the longer and more desperate the battle. Still, the book. was a good read this Halloween month.
on August 27, 2012
I was very surprised with how good this book really was. Especially for its time.
In the age we live now, with technology and knowledge of history and a possible future, we have so much we can write about.
But to return to Bram Stoker's time and write this book, I thought it would be a difficult task to write something as good as Dracula.
For too long Ive been Anti-Vampire with all this Twilight crap going on.
I decided to ignore it all and go back to where it all began, the King of the Vampires.
Bram Stoker's original story of DRACULA.
Though, it has its flaws, it mainly comes down to the way it is written.
Its almost impossible (or was for me) when there were pages about a conversation with something with an accent, and Bram Stoker made sure he spelt every word as who ever was speaking would say it. Plenty of letters missing an apostrophes in their place.
The first 50 pages really reeled me into the story, but unfortunately, after that, it took a good 200 pages before I became interested in the story once more.
Ive never seen a DRACULA movie, apart from the spoof 'Dead and Loving It' Which really didnt follow the story that much, so there were not many spoilers from that. This was a good read, though difficult at times. I highly recommend it to anyone willing to give this classic a chance. Glad ive read it and can add it to my collection.
Additional: This Leather Binding arrived in bad condition for me although it was said to be NEW. Though I didnt mind the little nicks here and there, Im just giving anyone who purchases it in future a heads up on the possibly condition of this fragile book.
on February 8, 2004
Bram Stoker had absolutely no idea just what sort of monster he was creating. I refer not to his title character, but to the book itself. It is highbrow enough that scholars and literary types feel the need to include it (if, perhaps, toward the bottom) on their lists of exemplary 19th-century popular literature, yet lowbrow enough to interest the common reader. This is not a slight to the "common reader"; I'm one, too, and I tire of dense, obnoxiously self-important prose. Stoker's goal was not to write "important" books. He knew exactly who his readers were - real people, not literary critics. That he managed to rise somewhat above even his own expectations with Dracula is a testament to his often latent skill. Stephen King has benefited from the seriousness with which some critics have taken Dracula, by often being taken more seriously than he perhaps deserves. King knows this, too; he has often described himself, tongue in cheek, as the McDonald's or General Motors of horror fiction. Stoker, while never as consistently successful as King, might have applied a similar description to himself.
Dracula, though written at the end of the 19th century, seems a fairly modern book, at it moves swiftly and employs suspense techniques often associated with more recent books and films (i.e., the shifting point-of-view, "cross-cutting", if you will, between different first-person narratives to build tension). It works exceedingly well, providing a model and formula followed by many successors - though often with less impressive results.
The central villain - Count Dracula himself - is quite rightly absent from the stage a good deal of the time, so that he may grow in the imagination of the reader as his invisible presence permeates nearly every page. He is always just on the other of the window, door, or wall, or just across the street - his nefarious intentions influencing events as the book draws inexorably toward confrontation with the monster.
Dracula's flaw is also, in a way, its virtue: there are no evil human characters. Almost everyone is quite heroic and selfless in a sort of two-dimensional way. It is not that the characters are underdeveloped (as many complain), but that they tend to be representative of human beings' more enviable qualities, and therefor seem less realistic to the modern reader. But, then, one has to realize that the entire book is composed of diaries, letters, and faux-news clippings. I get a sense of subtle humor, of the "unreliable narrator" sort, from some passages of Dracula, as characters make themselves out to be more chivalrous, loving, and trusting than, perhaps, they actually were during the "real" events they describe. For example, one can only infer Dr. Seward's actual response to Van Helsing's request for autopsy knives so he can decapitate his beloved Lucy's corpse and take out her heart before burial! Reading between the lines, Seward's description of the event in his diary becomes darkly funny as he struggles to maintain a sense of 19th-century British decorum while relating the scene. His description of Van Helsing's anguish gives us a clue: Seward seems to suspect his mentor may be going off the deep end, and his expressions of blind trust in the old man may be a way of placating him.
Dracula's greatest virtue, though, is its well-oiled plot. It's an impressive machine that still functions marvelously more than a century after its making. It is a mean, sharp skeleton fleshed out with numerous horrific digressions (the episodes with Dracula's "brides", the log of the Demeter, the "bloofer lady", etc.) that serve as tiles in a mosaic gradually completing the rather lean narrative that develops from them. Compare it with, say, Peter Straub's rather bloated attempt at the same technique in Floating Dragon, a rather messy and unsatisfying novel with isolated moments of brilliance, and you start to realize what a taut, precise engine Stoker really fashioned.
What keeps me from giving Dracula five stars is that it's necessarily limited by its own goals. Truly great popular novels somehow manage to tell exciting stories while also reaching more deeply than they pretend. They reverberate on levels well above (and below) their apparent target. While many have read exotic psychosexual interpretations into Dracula, I find it shallows out rather quickly once it has served up its scares and menace. Yes, there is a genuine (and intended) erotic subtext, but it fails to be profoundly illuminating, since it was never intended to be. It serves its disquieting purpose, and then departs, rather than lingering. That's how Stoker designed his effects, and they work perfectly. He set out to write a good four-star novel, and he did.
A hundred years later, it's still good four-star novel, popular as ever, as well it deserves. Excellent work, and worth a place in your library.
on July 14, 2003
When faced with the difficult decision of which undead monster to write about, a writer is best served by choosing vampires, whose awesome abilities and vestiges of human nature -- better conversationalists than zombies and mummies, more civilized than ghouls -- allow them to function as substantial literary characters.
Bram Stoker's "Dracula", however, is less about its title character than it is about the people who are trying to destroy him. Because the story is narrated by the hunters in a variety of first-person accounts, we get only their perspectives and not that of Dracula himself. It would have been nice to hear from someone who was once alive about what it's like to be cursed with an eternal undead existence, to be able to climb walls and turn into a bat at will, whether having to feast exclusively on human blood gets monotonous, and if all blood tastes the same. (I'd imagine some is saltier than others.)
The "living" characters in this novel are, in typical Victorian fashion, wound extremely tight. First we meet Jonathan Harker, an English solicitor whose firm has been hired by the infamous Transylvanian Count to help him buy a house in England. After finding himself imprisoned in Dracula's castle, noticing that the Count spends the daylight hours asleep in a coffin in an underground crypt, and being accosted by three female vampires under Dracula's command, Harker guesses that something about his apparently genial host is not quite right.
Eventually making his passage to England, Dracula proceeds to feast on a girl named Lucy Westenra, whose friend Mina happens to be Harker's fiancee. As Lucy lies in bed ailing and becoming paler by the day, a team of highly skilled experts, including the psychiatrist John Seward, the Dutch physician Abraham van Helsing (who speaks in enthusiastic bursts of pidgin English), Lucy's fiancee Lord Godalming, and a "laconic" Texan named Quincey Morris, is assembled to discuss the problem. Van Helsing's conclusion: We've got vampires.
The novel is more an exercise in suspense than in horror, especially since there is a time element involved -- Mina, also bitten by Dracula, will become a vampire under his power unless he is destroyed. The descriptions of the Count's desolate mountain castle, the morbid scenes of profuse bloodletting, and the concept of a nearly invincible villain are the very essence of horror, though, and Stoker puts them to as much use as he can. Many critics have commented on the novel's erotic symbolism, and if these views are valid, all I can say is that Stoker wouldn't be the first or the last author to associate sex with death.
on June 3, 2003
I recently finished reading Bram Stoker's Dracula and found it to be a very enticing. I was filled with much misconception before reading this novel because of all of the movies out there that never seem to quite follow the book they are basing it on. I thought the book gave a lot of feel and it almost seemed personal, as though the letters in the character's journals really are personally for each reader. I normally am not a fan of books that are written in that way, but I seemed to forget quite often that I was reading someone's journal. The story line is very creative, and I especially enjoyed it because I believe that Bram Stoker got his idea to write about Dracula, from Vlad Tepes II who took on the name Dracula after his father had taken the nickname Dracul. To me, it made the book far more interesting. Some things were just a tad bit too dark for my taste, but other than that... the characters were developed very well. It is a fantasy, so everything is going to be unrealistic, such as the characters not having many flaws to show forth. I was curious to know more about Dracula, and how he became the way he did. Overall this is a great book and I encourage anyone who doesn't mind lots of gore, to really dig into this book. It is suspenseful and it sends chills up and down your spine.
I personally think that although this story will remain an unforgettable classic... there should be something written about the real Dracula, Vlad Tepes.
on May 7, 2003
So you think you know all about Dracula? Seen the dozens of movies, including the badly misnamed "Bram Stoker's Dracula". Read the hundreds of vampire novels? Big fan of "Buffy"? Tired of the subject? Even if you can say yes to any of the above, going back to the original novel will be well worth your while. Although the vampire legend goes back centuries in many cultures,it took an obscure writer in late 19th century England named Bram Stoker to create the basis for the most enduring and pervasive of horror characters. At times, the dialogue is almost ludicrous (where in the world did Stoker get the idea of how Americans talk?), the plot drags a little in the middle, the language is often too flowery and ornate for 21st century tastes but if you read this novel with some suspension of our modern tastes (and don't play amateur psychologist and try to overanalyse it), it is a great story. Love, horror, history, culture, suspense, action - this book has it all and even the best movie, book and/or miniseries has yet to fully do it justice. The characters of the Count and Van Helsing are written so well that it is easy to see why they are classics, but most of the other characters - especially Johnathan and Mina Harker - are also memorable. The best of the action and narrative take place in the opening and closing chapters, while in Transylvania, but the entire book is one that any horror fan should add to their collection.
on November 20, 2001
I harbored more than a little skepticism when entering into this book after being disappointed by another "classic" horror novel--and perhaps the more critically acclaimed one at that--The Turn of the Screw. Screw failed to evoke any facet of terror because it was so deeply enshrouded in a language that naturally dulled the simplicity inherent in fear. Fortunately, Bram Stoker's classic, Dracula does not fall pray to a similarly unfortunate characteristic, and maintains a far more interesting and worthwhile story as well.
Perhaps the part of Stoker's novel that cannot be praised enough, is the ubiquitous presence of evil, without it being directly recorded. It becomes almost a crash course in symbolism, to discover the events as they coincide with the gradual effects of Dracula's presence in London. What Stoker does is a lot similar--and far more effective in its respective medium--to what was achieved in the Blair Witch Project. We see subtle effects and character responses that all point to the villain, but the villain is always just beyond reach, never quite tangible, and more the frightening because of it. In this way, the novel instantly propels itself to one of the greatest horror novels of all time. Through thunderstorms, howling wolves, and a host of other events, we are given the hint of our nemesis, without the more vulnerable and less frightening physical individual.
Moreover, there are the directly observable effects that come under the futile attention of the main characters. In my opinion, the novel reaches its climax of storytelling with the tale of Lucy Westenra, a purely superb encounter with the gaining effects of vampirism. It is truly the high point in the novel, as the tension rises amongst the characters and the gruesome postmortem effects are so vividly revealed to the reader, implying with more than a little emphasis that the condition can transform even the purest of creatures into a foul monster. It is the most horrifying, most engrossing, most intense, and ultimately most engaging portion of the story, uniting the reader with the urgency of the situation.
As Lucy's story seems to be the high point of the novel, there is an unfortunate descension in pace following the cessation of her tale. This is nitpicking at best, but a concern that does--though mildly--affect the novel. A lot--too much--time is spent in preparation of a climax that occurs too quickly, and so the audience is bored by the length of unnecessarily long debate and then disappointed by an abrupt finale. But, recall, this is nitpicking at best.
What lies within is one of the greatest--perhaps the greatest--horror novels of all time, and one that has defined the genre for the century since its publication. It should be the basis for all fans of macabre, gothic literature, as it stands as, perhaps, the greatest example, written in a superb manner that transfers the narration without being clumsy, and thus uniting the reader with the intense frustrations, struggles, and fears of a multitude of characters. Aside from being a feat of literary form, there is a genuinely splendid tale to be had from this, which develops over several, distinct acts that are united to create a well-written novel. In short, this is the quintessential horror novel that no fan should miss. It uses the far more effective literary devices of yore to establish the mystery and terror that modern fiction is so quick to neglect. To top it all, it's one of the most entertaining books ever written.
on July 23, 2001
...and I say that because this book (not a "retelling" of the Dracula myth, as one reviewer assumed, but the original Dracula myth in its pure form) does have its weaknesses. Some of the dialogue is overblown at times (and Van Helsing's fractured English makes him seem more goofy than wise and powerful). The characters sometimes are flat (Quincey Morris acting too laidback when he fearfully shoots at a bat--who happens to be you-know-who--perched on a balcony). And the physical description of Dracula--conceived as a stage role for Stoker's boss, actor Henry Irving--is more likely to induce laughter than fear. Stoker's depiction of Dracula is a skinny Henry Irving with Spock ears, fangs that protrude over his lips, long nails, and hairy palms. Not exactly scary. The Hollywood conception of Dracula as a normal-looking fellow who only sprouts fangs when about to attack is much scarier, and more fitting for such a menacing character. And Boris Vallejo's beautiful cover art for the TOR reissue pretty much cements the point. He, too, presents Dracula as a human-looking villain, but with an air of menace around him. As such, the character is actually more fearsome as a romantic icon than he is in Stoker's "Henry Irving as fanged Spock" description.
That said, DRACULA's position as a classic is well-deserved. Its plotting is swift and furious, and the use of multiple viewpoints allows the story to be multifaceted. An air of melancholy gloom saturates the narrative, and it certainly stays with you even after you finish it. There are some truly chilling moments, and Dracula...well, even though he's not given much page time, he pretty much steals the show. He is indeed a paragon of pure evil, and as such is the most engaging character in the book. One can almost hear Bela Lugosi's voice snarling the dialogue. (It was fun to see him boast of how clever Vlad the Impaler--Dracula's true identity, as it happens--was when he defeated the Turks. That Dracula would actually brag about his glory days in the third person was a hoot.) Especially interesting is the comment at the end when Jonathan Harker, looking over all the journal entires that comprise the book's story, says that there's "not one authentic document, just as mass of typewriting," which makes one wonder if Dracula was indeed a vampire who nearly destroyed these people's lives, or is the whole story a smokescreen for something else? That idea actually makes the book even more terrifying.
In short, read and enjoy. It's a worthy book, and it is fun to see how the legend began.