Illustrator Jae Lee's comic book style illustrations, while stylish and technically accomplished, jar painfully with the roundabout Victorian writing...moreIllustrator 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.(less)
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 in...moreBy 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.(less)
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 en...moreThis 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.(less)
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 bizz...moreThis 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.(less)
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 pr...moreAnd 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?(less)
The primary question with this book, the sixth in Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, is, why would we, the readers, want to read a book from the point of...moreThe primary question with this book, the sixth in Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, is, why would we, the readers, want to read a book from the point of view of the self christened Marius de Romanus, the Roman vampire with a tendency towards pederasty and pompous pronouncements?
This question becomes even more pressing as the book goes on and Marius proves himself entirely arrogant and obnoxious, applying a form of moral blindness that makes his own actions acceptable while everyone else's deserve to be punished harshly. It's like watching a train wreck, seeing all the relationships of his 2,000 year life fail almost entirely because of his faults. Neither do we have a redeemingly interesting frame story to carry us through - Marius tells his story of an equally irritating fellow vampire named Thorne, after the two new aquantainces have (listen to this) taken a bath together.
There are a few entirely fascinating characters, such as the Greek vampire Eudoxia, who practically rules over the other vampires in Constaintinople, but Marius rather ends up destroying their lives, which merely serves to make us detest our protaganist further.
Not recommended, unless you want to finish the series or really, really like Marius.(less)
While the rest of the world was reading the sparkling vampire angst of the Twilight series, I, I must say, have steered clear of the entire phenomenon...moreWhile the rest of the world was reading the sparkling vampire angst of the Twilight series, I, I must say, have steered clear of the entire phenomenon and instead focused my young adult vampire reading on Vladimir Tod, the eighth grade half-vampire living in a gimmick of a fictional town called Stokerton.
Young Vladimir Tod, like nearly every other male protaganist of a genre fiction young adult novel, is an orphan. His vampire father and human mother died some years before the start of the book in a rather suspicious accident, leaving him to be raised by his human aunt Nellie, a nurse who gets him blood from the hospital at which she works.
All right - a bit clichéd, particularly the half vampire trope, but nothing in that premise is impossible to make a passable book out of. The problem comes when it becomes clear the Heather Brewer has not yet thought through the emotional realities of the life of her protaganist. For example, although I have no personal experience in the subject, I find it highly doubtful that the childhood friend of a half vampire would, when they are both thirteen and have known one another for eight years, still make the clichéd vampire jokes that anyone could come up with immediately, and act as if they are new inventions of his. I also suspect that Henry (for that is the irritating friend's name) would treat Vladimir's vampirism as a frequent surprise. Ms. Brewer, perhaps you cannot imagine a thirteen boy taking his friend's status as a half vampire in stride, but people can get used to nearly anything.
In addition, the thoughts going on in Vladimir's head do not have the ring of reality to them, sounding more like stereotypes of a teeange boy combined with generic moments, either comic or agonized, which have to do with his vampirism and seem gratuitous and not particularly thought through. I felt, throughout, that I had no real reason to like or care about Vladimir, and, without that, the book rather fell apart.
Leaving characterization aside, Brewer's world building struck me as inept, messy, and frequently quite stupid. The vampire city which Vladimir visits toward the end of the book? Oh, dear, dear, dear. I don't know where that came from.
Also? Blood would taste terrible with french fries.(less)
Welcome back to Stokerton, and Bathory High, home of Vladimir Tod! If you're here looking at this installment, then you likely either enjoyed the firs...moreWelcome back to Stokerton, and Bathory High, home of Vladimir Tod! If you're here looking at this installment, then you likely either enjoyed the first book or are searching for more illogical things to poke gentle fun at.
Be warned, searchers with either objective - Heather Brewer has higher ambitions in this book. We get a vampire slayer, lurking ominously in the odd, incongruous 'villain perspective' interludes that readers may recall from the first book. We get tiresome high school politics, a school outcast with a morbid interest in the macabre called what else but 'Eddie Poe', Vladimir Tod's crush on a classmate growing (possibly) more serious. We get an illogically isolated Russian vampire community, where our daring author tries her hardest to insert some moral ambiguity.
The concepts all sorts of sway dizzily for a little while, like a child's too-high tower of building blocks, but they soon topple over, leaving us with exactly the same things as the first book. It's a very laudable effort, though.(less)
An indispensably useful edition for fans of Dracula. While Leonard Wolf's annotations are sometimes self indulgent and silly (yes, it could be true th...moreAn 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.(less)
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 the...moreThis 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.(less)