Jonathan's Reviews > Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stoker
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This review can now be seen in a video form here for anyone wondering what I sound or look a little like . Enjoy!

Dracula: the very name instantly brings to mind visions of vampires, stakes, garlic and crucifixes. But when I bothered to read the novel I realised, sadly, how twisted modern vampire fiction has become.

Vampires are not meant to exist as heroes. Go back a few hundred years and men believed truly that the vampire was a real immortal, cursed to quench his undying thirst with a living mortal's blood. The very idea of a blood drinker inspires the very image of a villain in my mind. And that is what the titular character of this novel is.

I say novel, but I could also write that this is a collaboration of journals, letters and papers. For that is how Bram Stoker chose to fashion his famous novel (in epistolary form). And the different viewpoints through each journal serve to create suspense which suits the gothic tone of the novel perfectly.

In all it is a macabre novel that serves to make the reader reflect upon good and evil. The vampire to me is nothing more than an indication of man's own cursed nature and that unless he is delivered he must suck life from others around him. Ultimately only the righteous can destroy the darkness that serves to drain life.

Additional thoughts after my first re-read (this is like the appendix of a book - which you skip if you want):

The first thought I had upon re-reading this were: oh I see the annotated version's notes show some awesome things! For instance I could see the contradiction in how all along the characters had spoken of how organised their notes were and then Stoker himself made errors in logic and with the dates to indicate that perhaps the narration was not so reliable. Which interestingly is how the book ends: with the narration indicating that it did not matter who believed their convoluted story.

My second thought was that I could see all the references to other texts. Hamlet, Homer and the various poets of the time (there was some reference in an essay attached to the story that perhaps the older version of Dracula - when he has gone without blood - was based on Oscar Wilde much as how Robert Louis Stephenson based his Long John Silver on William Henley)

My third thought was that I could see why I loved this book the first time I read it. The image of a bestial vampire like Dracula sucking the life out of victims to continue his un-dead existence is so metaphoric for the very idea of evil. Evil can be seductive, it can look appealing but ultimately it leads only to a sort of un-dead experience in which you seek to gain satisfaction and purpose through draining others of their vitality. And in this case it is an evil which can only be driven out through holy means (it is interesting that there are many allusions to the Bible in the actual figure of Dracula - is he meant to be represented as a sort of anti-Christ spirit?)

My fourth thought is that this is an incredible classic that has to be read to be understood. The little flaws in it make it more appealing and humanised if anything and the tragic nature of its story causes its readers to be both appalled by the villain (who is unforgettable) and to feel sorrow for the victims. As mentioned above: vampires are not meant to be messianic figures (the true message of Dracula I think) but they instead represent the very opposite of holiness and virtue*. While Dracula is not the first vampire novel it is perhaps the greatest as it shows the vampire as a truly malevolent and brutal figure (not a sparkly heartthrob but a killer). As The Lord of the Rings inevitably altered the idea of the fantasy genre so too Dracula undeniably changed the idea of the vampire.

A later fifth thought is about religion and Dracula. I read recently in a book about fantasy how Dracula 'blasphemes' against Christianity. I disagree. I think the book reveals an aspect of what sin does to man in the aspect of the un-dead vampire. The idea that a man under a curse is doomed to suck the life out of others. Because blood is symbolic of life and ultimately life is what Dracula takes because, well, he's a selfish old devil. To be honest I don't care about the reinterpretations, the interpretations of this book. It's a solid horror story that can be read by anyone.

*used in Dracula in its true archaic form to indicate a link to spirituality
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Reading Progress

07/23/2012 page 55
11.0% "It's very interesting to do a re-read for uni."
07/25/2012 page 200
41.0% "I think I can see where some of the distorted sensuality of the book has come from... For example: 'made love to me' being used to refer to a proposal or talking about love" 1 comment
07/25/2012 page 200
41.0% "Also the notes are very useful. You discover that the word hysteria comes from the root Latin for uterus. Interesting things you learn..."
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 95) (95 new)


Linda Cee I can never write a review of books I really loved as a kid but you wrote pretty much what I would've if I could.


Jonathan Thank you very much Linda. I'm doing a re-read later in the year as luckily I get to study this amazing book for literature in the second half!


message 3: by Lady Wesley (new)

Lady Wesley Vampires are not meant as heroes.

Having read and loved this book as a girl, I suppose perhaps that's why the modern fad for vampires has never appealed to me.

Very nice review.


Jonathan Thank you very much. Yes it's always staggered me that they've tried to turn these dark and vicious beasts into sex symbols for teenage angst and desire. I mean how do you equate the undead bloodthirsty Dracula who turns his victims into more vampires who are completely different from the original with sensuality?


Richard Jonathan recorded his reading stats as "Read from July 15, 2012 to January 01, 2011."

I always suspected you were a time lord! :)


[Name Redacted] While the theme of sensuality/sexuality IS there, it's not the dominant one. The problem is that our culture is stuck in a sort of adolescence and fixated on sex, so we bend over backwards (no pun intended) in our attempts to make everything about sex.


Richard Ian wrote: "While the theme of sensuality/sexuality IS there, it's not the dominant one. The problem is that our culture is stuck in a sort of adolescence and fixated on sex, so we bend over backwards (no pun ..."

(view spoiler)


[Name Redacted] I sex sex what you're sexing about!


Richard Ian wrote: "I sex sex what you're sexing about!"

Sexactly!


Jonathan Oh dear... hahaha.

Yes there was sensuality in the novel but sensuality is different from turning something into an icon or symbol.


message 11: by Stephen (new)

Stephen M. I have to agree, Dracula is one of the all-time great novels. I read it for the first time when I was about twelve or so, and I can't remember how many times I've read it since.


Jonathan It's a rare novel that you can experience a similar way when you read it a second time. Many contemporary novels lose their punch on a second reading because they lack the depth of language.


Jonathan Richard wrote: "Jonathan recorded his reading stats as "Read from July 15, 2012 to January 01, 2011."

I always suspected you were a time lord! :)"


Of course I am. Don't listen to Doctor Who's message that's just propaganda trying to tell you that the Time Lords are all dead except for one or two.


Richard Jonathan wrote: "Richard wrote: "Jonathan recorded his reading stats as "Read from July 15, 2012 to January 01, 2011."

I always suspected you were a time lord! :)"

Of course I am. Don't listen to Doctor Who's me..."


They said that sort of thing in the Highlander films too but I figured it was all a conspiracy theory.


Jonathan I haven't seen the Highlander films. Are they any good? Because I'm creating a list of films to see and I've heard them referenced a fair amount.


Richard Jonathan wrote: "I haven't seen the Highlander films. Are they any good? Because I'm creating a list of films to see and I've heard them referenced a fair amount."

I think the first one (which came out in 1986) is supposed to be the best one of the series and is considered a "cult classic."


Jonathan Cult classics work for me. I read lots of books which are like that in terms of they're popular within their area but little known elsewhere...


Richard Jonathan wrote: "Cult classics work for me. I read lots of books which are like that in terms of they're popular within their area but little known elsewhere..."

Can you give a few examples?


Jonathan I would say a lot of the fantasy I've read and some sci-fi. There's a sort of cult following for Ender's Game in a way (but it's also well known so...), anything by Brandon Sanderson has a sort of cult following too...I know there was another series or so that I've read. Ah the Riyran Revelations which I read is developing that sort of following. There've been many other books (we tend to see self-published books become like that now).


Richard Jonathan wrote: "I would say a lot of the fantasy I've read and some sci-fi. There's a sort of cult following for Ender's Game in a way (but it's also well known so...), anything by Brandon Sanderson has a sort of ..."

I've read some of the Ender series but not all. Wasn't Sanderson the one who was chosen to finish off the Wheel of Time series? The Riyria Revelation looks like it could be fun.


Jonathan Sanderson was the one who was chosen to finish The Wheel of Time but before that his novels were very much cult classics. And yes Riyria was a good fun read. Not the greatest fantasy in terms of being a high-brow epic like The Lord of the Rings but certainly one of the most fun and still decently well written (particularly as the series went on).


[Name Redacted] Sanderson has published at least one ~500 page book every year since his debut novel Elantris in 2005. He shows no sign of slowing down. And they're all pretty dang readable -- he's not a great writer and his characters can be pretty hit-or-miss, but he's an amazing world-builder and his novels are often pretty high-concept. Also, he co-hosts a pretty fun podcast called "Writing Excuses".

And the first Highlander film is definitely the best. 2 is awful and 3 is...meh. The TV series is actually pretty dang good, but is effectively set in an alternate timeline from the films.


Richard Thanks for that, Ian!


Jonathan Well I love Sanderson's work personally. He's not flowery or poetic but he writes characters and worlds that I like and enjoy. I haven't seen enough of his podcasts yet though...

Thanks for the info on the Highlander films. I'll add the first to my to-watch list then.


midnightfaerie was at my book store this weekend and was looking for some sanderson...they didn't have anything! argh! they did, however, have some of the game of thrones series and I also acquired the first 3 books in the wheel of time series. I really must begin to expand my reading into the world of fantasy and sci-fi. They didn't have any Rothfuss either. Half price book stores is a chain, and they're usually pretty good with the selection, but apparently not this weekend. But I promise to still keep Sanderson on my list!


Jonathan I have the first Game of Thrones to properly get into. Sanderson and Rothfuss are selling out pretty quick at the moment. I find it's better to order books like that.


midnightfaerie I'll keep that in mind. I want to finish the Eragon series and LOTR first...


Jonathan Those are two decent fantasies (in other words if a beginner doesn't like elements of them they won't like others usually) to get through then.

I'm re-reading this at the moment with an annotated version and it's fascinating to see the references to Shakespeare, Homer and the other classics. Plus you also see where the writer/'editor' made a mistake with his character's written articles.


message 29: by Stephen (new)

Stephen M. The first Highlander film is pretty good.

The second Highlander film is so awfully, unbelievably, transcendentally bad that I love it beyond all reason. There's the theatrical version, and a "Rebel" version (re-edited with extra footage version and director's commentary), and they are both so awful you can hardly believe your eyes.

Be sure you watch at least on version of Highlander 2. Just don't eat or drink while doing so. And make sure there's something soft in your lap, for when your jaw drops.


Jonathan YAY!!! So bad they're good films!!!


midnightfaerie I never watched these when they came out, so when my husband had me watch them years later, i just couldn't appreciate them as the 80's did. However, it's okay, since my husband feels the same way about Revenge of the Nerds, and the Beverly Hills Cop movies, which I adore.


Jonathan Oh no - more bad movies!!! I seriously (no sarcasm) love the way this thread has transformed from talking about Dracula to talking about bad movies! It's great because it reminds me of the terrible Dracula adaptations which have existed.


midnightfaerie yes! i laughed so hard when i saw the bela lagosi adaptation! i felt like i was watching my soap opera i used to watch in college...half the acting was just a pensive look meant to intimidate...i had my book club over to watch it...next time i think i'll make that "look" into a drinking game. the one from the 80's that won tons of awards with anthony hopkins and keanu reeves was terrible too, but fun at the same time. (as for bad 80's movies - i'm the queen! loved the 80's - which is why i loved Ready Player One by Ernest Cline so much)


midnightfaerie Also, it's amazing how those bad movie affect you...my husband and I are big Die Hard fans and our 2 yr old twins have an elmo toy that says many phrases, one of which is "Yippie ki yeah!" and we ALWAYS look at each other and have to clamp down on our toungues to not finish the phrase from the movie.


Jonathan I was told to watch that one with keanu reeves and anthony hopkins for lit and I started only to go: um this is just too sickening so I think I'll skip the viewing and just go to the tute instead.


message 36: by Stephen (new)

Stephen M. janine aka J9 aka midnightfaerie wrote: "yes! i laughed so hard when i saw the bela lagosi adaptation! i felt like i was watching my soap opera i used to watch in college...half the acting was just a pensive look meant to intimidate...i..."

        One problem with the Lugosi Dracula is that Bela was a Shakesperean stage actor in Hungary, and he carries that over into the film.  Hitchcock talked once about his film Sabotage (in Hitchcock/Truffaut), and how in the big climactic scene, the leading lady complained that he wouldn't let her act.  She was a stage actress.  When she saw it on screen, she realized that she'd have been ridiculously over the top if he'd let her do it the way she wanted to.

        So I'd blame most of the problems with the film on the director.


message 37: by Stephen (new)

Stephen M. janine aka J9 aka midnightfaerie wrote: "Also, it's amazing how those bad movie affect you...my husband and I are big Die Hard fans and our 2 yr old twins have an elmo toy that says many phrases, one of which is "Yippie ki yeah!" and we A..."

        I don't see Die Hard as a bad movie.  Granted the premise (terrorists take over office building, tough cop happens to be there and fights them), I think its pretty good.


midnightfaerie lol! yes, stephen, ur right. any movie i've watched at least 20 times and have memorized, can't really be categorized as "bad". the fact is, i love it. along with lethal weapon, demolition man, drop zone, cry baby, porky's, heathers, dream a little dream, goonies, the lost boys, and many many others. :)


midnightfaerie oh! oh! police academy! i have them all! and short circut! and coming to america! and back to the future! there are so many!


Jonathan You've just poured out a stream of movies I've watched and liked myself or need to watch right there...


[Name Redacted] Police Squad > Police Academy.

FACT! ;)


midnightfaerie police squad? what is that??????? and how could it possibly be better than hightower ripping out a seat in mahony's car so he can learn to drive? or bob goldthwait with adorable voice that makes u love him for being bad? or tackleberry's gun collection? or larvell jone's imitation of the police intercom or airport security? or the wonderful mixup of lassard and his right hand man in the gay bar? ??????


midnightfaerie ok, Ian, i admit, they're pretty good...but i think i still like police academy better. i was just raised on them is all.


[Name Redacted] Ahhhh, and I was raised on Police Squad. Fair enough.


message 46: by Emma (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma Fantastic review, Jonathan. Reading it makes me want to drop my current book and pick up Dracula again.


Melissa (ladybug) You are really good at book reviews. :) I always seem to have trouble putting my thoughts into words, and you make it seem so easy. :D


Jonathan Thank you a heap Emma and Melissa. Believe it or not though I often have trouble trying to put all the thoughts I'm thinking in order which is why it's nice that some people (i.e. Ian, Richard, Stephen) can come along and point out flaws or interesting facts.


message 49: by Stephen (new)

Stephen M. Emma wrote: "Fantastic review, Jonathan. Reading it makes me want to drop my current book and pick up Dracula again."

        Well, you can always read it a little at a time at the Dracula blog: the Dracula Blot.


message 50: by Emma (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma Stephen wrote: "Emma wrote: "Fantastic review, Jonathan. Reading it makes me want to drop my current book and pick up Dracula again."

        Well, you can always read it a little at a time at the Dracula blog: t..."


Thanks, I'll certainly check that out!


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