Illustrator Jae Lee's comic book style illustrations, while stylish and technically accomplished, jar painfully with the roundabout Victorian writingIllustrator Jae Lee's comic book style illustrations, while stylish and technically accomplished, jar painfully with the roundabout Victorian writing of Dracula. I would likely enjoy the illustrations as independent pieces of artwork inspired by the story, but when they are intended within the text as direct depictions, something just doesn't fit. This problem is worsened by lazy graphic design which places most of the illustrations away from the scenes in the text that they are intended to depict, rather at random points in the novel. This seems to me to be yet another attempt to market Dracula as a modern horror novel in the style of Stephen King, and, while I understand the appeal of that from a marketing stand point, Dracula most manifestly is not a modern horror novel - it is a Victorian horror novel, and anyone who enters into one expecting the other is bound to be disappointed....more
By all rights, I should have hated this book. Dracula fan fiction giving the character of R.M. Renfield a backstory, it could so easily have lapsed inBy all rights, I should have hated this book. Dracula fan fiction giving the character of R.M. Renfield a backstory, it could so easily have lapsed into absurdity, especially as writing Renfield and Dr. Seward - the two characters from the original novel who are most featured in this book - is a fragile task, one that I myself have difficulty accomplishing to my own satisfaction. But I didn't. The book obviously benefited from closing reading of the original novel on the author's part, and strict adherence to it (that's important in fan fiction of a novel which gives the dates of everything). The premise is that the material which makes up the book was additional matter from Dr. Seward's journal, withheld from the publication of Dracula because of Seward's wish not to betray the trust of Renfield, his patient. Material from the original novel was thus included throughout, and printed in bold to distinguish it (a measure I thought unneccesary, but I could understand the purpose of). Author Tim Lucas has clearly put a great deal of thought into his characterization of Renfield, for he creates a startlingly vivid world inside the character's mind, one not ever directly contradicted by the text of the original novel. He also makes good use of modern psychology without pounding Freud into his readers' heads, a difficult task.
This novel is a superb example of professional writers writing fan fiction and getting it right. While not everything in Tim Lucas' characterization rang true to me, I could see where all of it came from. This author has obviously recognized the unique skills neccesary for writing good fan fiction, and utilized them effectively. I enjoyed this book greatly....more
This book was on the New York Times bestseller list for a long time when it was first published, and it’s easy to see why. The language is rich and enThis book was on the New York Times bestseller list for a long time when it was first published, and it’s easy to see why. The language is rich and engrossing, full of the type of phrases one wishes to reread and savor. The book as a whole is rich and atmospheric, with gorgeous descriptions of places from communist Hungary to Oxford University in modern day. It may be tangential and slow moving, stopping to look at the sights along the way, but one can hardly mind when the tangents are so interesting.
The premise of this novel is that the infamous Count Dracula is both Vlad the Impaler, the Wallachian tyrant, and the vampire of Bram Stoker’s novel (one might imagine that Dracula scholar Elizabeth Miller was displeased). The hero of this book, Paul (the father of the narrator), stumbles onto this secret accidentally and it soon becomes a matter of life and death for him as Dracula’s attacks become more and more personal. The quest to find Dracula’s tomb takes Paul and his infinitely more fascinating traveling companion Helen Rossi through half a dozen European countries, to dusty libraries and to monasteries, to ruined castles and humble cottages.
Unlike many of the other readers of this book, I did not find the end anti-climactic, nor was I bored at any point during the 642 pages (truly not long, objectively, but I suppose when I book is so popular, you end up with a great many readers who aren't used to reading things this long) which comprise this book. My own criticisms are ones I have not seen in reviews - namely the fact that I managed to figure out the great revelations of the book extremely early on, and that I found it very difficult to connect to most of the characters emotionally. But neither of these detracted too much from my enjoyment of the book, and as a reader I was satisfied at the end, as one is satisfied by eating a filling meal.
But as someone who is greatly interested in both Dracula and Vlad the Impaler, and who has written fiction fusing the two manifestations, my reactions were more mixed. The question of whether or not Bram Stoker’s novel was fictional was skirted continuously; the novel seemed unwilling to address the obvious influences from Dracula that filled it. The characters regard it is a wealth of (highly suspect) vampire lore rather than anything that might possibly give them clues as to how their own story will unfold, and with the Renfield-like minion character as well as Helen, with her obvious similarities to Mina Harker, I find it hard to believe that no one would ever see a connection. And there were far too many instances in Vlad Tepes (the Impaler)’s life which were hardly even addressed, with the anecdotes with the most potentially in the creation of an emotionally complex character barely even skirted.
I must say that there was one thing about this book which impressed me deeply, as a fan fiction writer - the author’s characterization of Dracula himself. I am extremely critical as regards the way this character is written (most portrayals are really writing some combination of Max Shreck, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Frank Langella, and/or Gary Oldman's characterization, with little actual attention to novel or historical fact) and Elizabeth Kostova managed to write him in a way that gave me immense satisfaction. I do not wish to give too many details away, as doing so would spoil the book frightfully, but there is a perfect amount and combination of brutality and intelligence, difficult to combine realistically. This is probably not a detail which would interest anyone but those particularly fascinated by the character, but for me it greatly added to my enjoyment of the book.
This novel may not be great literature, but it is certainly a worth reading, enjoyable book, even to those who are not particularly interested in Dracula, as long as they like reading about travel, and research, and libraries, and crumbling old manuscripts....more
This Dracula fan fiction book begins as a mildly pathetic and uncreative pastiche of the original novel, and eventually take a turn for the truly bizzThis Dracula fan fiction book begins as a mildly pathetic and uncreative pastiche of the original novel, and eventually take a turn for the truly bizzarre as far as characterization goes. Amusing, for a Dracula fan, but not satisfying either as a novel or a Dracula continuation.
The premise: It is World War I. Fighting for England is Quincey Harker, the son of Jonathan and Mina who we hear about in the epilogue of Dracula. But this novel takes the not uncommon perspective that he is actually the son of Dracula and Mina - no, wait, I musn't forget one of the more inexplicable plot points of this book. Apparently, the villainous vampire who had an affair with Mina after the original novel's end, and who took her to Transylvania after Jonathan's unexpected death, was not Count Dracula at all, but rather Count Dracula's son, Tepes.
Even leaving aside the oddity of that naming scheme, did author Kate Carey ever stop to think how distinctly odd it would be for Mina, whatever one presumes her relationship with the elder Count was, to have an affair with an eventually marry his son? And what real purpose did it serve to add this new character? Author's and filmakers for decades have found ways of getting around the Count's rather unconvincing death at the end of the original novel; surely Kate Carey could do it.
But back to the plot. Quincey Harker is a vampire and belongs to the Dracula family, though the father on his birth certificate is the deceased Jonathan Harker. Serving under him is John Shaw (get it? John like Jonathan? Oh, this book), for whom the battlefield serves as a substitute for Dracula's Castle, eventually sending him back to England and, of course, Jack Seward's asylum, now converted into a war hospital, where he is treated through his illness and delirium by Mary Seward, Jack Seward's daughter. After some Renfield references, John regains his sanity and - surprise of all surprises - falls in love with and becomes engaged to Mary.
Soon we meet Lily (get this one too? Lily like Lucy?), John's naive and slightly irritating sister, who promptly falls madly in love with Quincey, and elopes with him back to Transylvania.
After that, the action progresses with overwhelming speed, complete with revelations about paternity that either leave no one surprised or come out of nowhere, characters switching loyalties at the drop of a hat, and plans made absurdly far in advance. The highlight of course, when one reads this book with the perverse delight of reading bad fan fiction, comes with Mina's appearence, as she persistently acts like a badly written Evil Queen from a fairy tale. Which doesn't fit her archetype in the least, can we all agree that?
One might wonder what version of Stoker's novel Cary found herself reading....more
And so we return to the Bloodline universe. This book is, I believe, more tolerable than the first, though likely that is mostly because the absurd prAnd so we return to the Bloodline universe. This book is, I believe, more tolerable than the first, though likely that is mostly because the absurd premises and unprepossessing writing style are already familiar at this point and thus no longer serve to disappoint. Also, this book has moved away from the direct imitation of Dracula's plot that plagued the first book, though I fear that is no more creative than its predecessor.
In this book, most of our characters from the first book are out of the way, whether they were killed off or simply aren't playing a major role this time around. We're left with Mary Seward and Quincey Harker, and trace the parallel plotlines of Mary being wooed by a new suitor (though do not fear, whatever misguided fans of the first book may exist, this doesn't mean that John's gone forever!) and of Quincey's journey away from Castle Dracula, including frequent flashbacks to his early adulthood, including his transformation into a vampire. The plotlines, both of them, become quite easily guessed for those familiar with the genre, and the book pales into tiresome, forgettable mediocrity, without even most of the out of character hilarity of the first book. However, it did make me wonder what the childhood and adolescence of a supposed child of Jonathan and Mina Harker, raised in Castle Dracula, would in all likeliehood be like with respect to the emotional reality of the situation and, well, the actual personalities of the characters. And new story ideas are always good, aren't they?...more
An indispensably useful edition for fans of Dracula. While Leonard Wolf's annotations are sometimes self indulgent and silly (yes, it could be true thAn indispensably useful edition for fans of Dracula. While Leonard Wolf's annotations are sometimes self indulgent and silly (yes, it could be true that the progeny of the Devil would have a gestation period of thirteen months rather than the human nine, making the birth of Quincey Harker thirteen months after Count Dracula's blood exchange with Mina Harker evidence that Quincey Harker is actually the son of Dracula, i.e., the devil, but...it's probably not), rather more frequently they provide tremendously useful historical and geographic context, making them a true blessing for the fan fiction writer committed to accuracy. The appendix of films and plays based on the novel is an inspired edition, and the inclusion of Stoker's 'deleted chapter' "Dracula's Guest" saves one the trouble of having to buy a separate collection for the (admittedly rather uninspired) short story. My copy is falling apart....more
This is an excellent, excellent book, for either those interested in the Dracula story and the various forms that it's taken, those interested in theThis is an excellent, excellent book, for either those interested in the Dracula story and the various forms that it's taken, those interested in the history of horror films, or those who just like vampires. It's wonderfully designed - a gorgeous still from the 1931 Bela Lugosi movie graces the first page - eliminating at the onset most of the danger that this book could fall into painful cheesiness. And Skal writes about the first forty years of the Dracula story with intelligence, wit, and a great deal of passion for the subject matter. This book was both incredibly informative and occasionally made me laugh out loud.
For me, the first chapter was slightly boring - I knew most of the Skal's material on Stoker's inspiration for the novel and its critical and popular reception. But as soon as he reached the play version that catapulted Dracula into being a popular icon, I was riveted. Skal describes in loving detail all he can find out about both the London and Broadway productions of that play, and manages to make not only the anecdotes but also the potentially tiresome financial details engaging and interesting.
When he gets to Murnau's Nosferatu and the 1931 Dracula, the earliest adapatations which many readers will be familiar with, Skal then does something with I applaud greatly - he's not afriad to criticize either of them, even as he acknowledges the dreamlike, symbolism filled world of Nosferatu and Dracula's position as an unquestionably classic film. He points out (and rightfully so) that Murnau's experiments with faced paced film, an attempt to induce a supernatural cast to such mundane moments as Hutter's carriage speeding into the mountains, seem merely laughable in the modern age. And he shows how careless the vast majority of both the screenplay and cinematography of Dracula is, and justifiably mocks the completely inexplicable armadillos in the Count's castle in that same movie.
He also lauds the virtues of the Spanish version of the 1931 Dracula, so much so that I was convinced to see it. He says that, in addition to more satisfactorally resolving Lucy's plotline, that version utilizes the sets far more effectively, and chooses to take far more dramatic shots at many points. I hadn't heard anyone quite this enthusiastic about this version before, and it's quite interesting.
This book did disappoint me, however, in its rather limited scope, though it's a testament to how good it was that I wanted to read more. Such differing eras and interpertations as the Hammer films, Werner Herzog's Nosferatu, the Frank Langella Dracula, and Bram Stoker's Dracula, were all glossed over in one quick chapter that said little more than "and Count Dracula continues to be a powerful image today," which is such a common statement in any essay on Dracula as to be essentially meaningless.
That said, this was a wonderful book, especially for someone who doesn't quite fit into either the 'horror movie buff' or 'Victorian literary critic searching for metaphors of xenophobia/homosexuality/imperialism/Catholicism vs. Protestatism/etc.' categories of Dracula fan, and likes to criticize the movie versions without completely disregarding them....more
Glossy photographs enliven what is essentially a coffee-table book. However, fascinating (and very compassionate and human) interviews with the childrGlossy photographs enliven what is essentially a coffee-table book. However, fascinating (and very compassionate and human) interviews with the children of both Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff made it entirely worthwhile. Those two emerged as complex, fiction-worthy individuals with believable, understandable relationships with their famous fathers....more
In many ways, this book was very useful. It is, for example, the only thing I have found which actually takes inOh, go away, overly Freudian analysis.
In many ways, this book was very useful. It is, for example, the only thing I have found which actually takes into account Stoker's non-Dracula novels in its analysis, in fact devoting more than one chapter to their discussion. As almost all of these are exceedingly difficult to find, summaries of them are of great value. And, while Phyllis A. Roth's biographical information on Stoker was common knowledge to me, I suspect that the facts she puts forth were rather less publicly known when her biography was first published. So. Useful.
But her Dracula analysis made my head hurt. Not only do we have a lot of really ugly stuff about the Count as Jonathan's father figure (it takes some mental gymnastics for me to get my brain into a place where I can even begin to see her point there, and even then I don't agree with it. For the curious, my thought process is roughly: Well, the Count is a directly sexual threat to Jonathan. So the first third of the novel is just the conventional female gothic novel formula with Jonathan substituted for the ingenue. And sometimes, in the gothic novels, the girl's father is a threat and/or the villain is in some way connected to/representative of her father. So, in that sense, Dracula could represent Jonathan's father figure. Except that the father/son relationship has very different implications from the father/daughter relationship in the gothic novel), but the blood exchange scene analysis was even worse than I was given to expect, and I tend to consider myself pretty much used to bad analyses of that scene. It was a lot of nonsense about the men catching Mina 'with' Dracula in that scene being representative of a son discovering his mother's sexual activity. Though she didn't put it in so many words, she really meant 'a son discovering that his mother is a whore'.
Which, even leaving aside the blatantly awful victim-blaming ugliness in that, makes it all about the goddamn men, and how they feel about it. Instead of, you know, what Mina might be thinking. And I know Stoker himself was male, and so assuming that he would be identifying with the male characters is not irrational, but still.