Monday, October 21, 2019

Dracula by Bram Stoker (novel #138)

…the world seems full of good men – even if there are monsters in it. ~ Mina Harker


Pure evil dwells in the hills of Transylvania, but this remote terror takes on epic proportions when blood-thirsty Count Dracula seeks richer feeding grounds in the teeming metropolis of London. The vampire threatens something worse than death to its victims; who are condemned to a hellish existence after death. The small group of innocents caught up in this tale are in a struggle against pure evil with their very souls at stake.

For if we fail in this our fight he must surely win; and then where end we? Life is nothings; I heed him not. But to fail here, is not mere life or death. It is that we become as him; that we henceforward become foul things of the night like him – without heart or conscience, preying on the bodies and the souls of those we love best. To us for ever are the gates of heaven shut; for who shall open them to us again? We go on for all time abhorred by all; a blot on the face of God’s sunshine; an arrow in the side of Him who died for man. ~ Van Helsing

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is an epistolary novel: told through letters, diaries, news articles, and other correspondence. I’m not always a fan of the technique, but in this case I thought it worked very well. It allowed Stoker to tell the tale through frequently changing first-person narrators. And even though I knew the premise of Dracula, I still found it riveting, terrifying, and a little creepy – in the way a horror novel should be creepy. Stoker did a masterful job, though his narrators, portraying their slow, and then in some cases sudden, realization of the unimaginable horror they were facing.

In the horror genre, there is Dracula, Frankenstein, and everything else. I would argue that Frankenstein, though classic, is not truly Horror, leaving me of the opinion that Dracula is the Gold-Standard of the genre. Like Frankenstein, Dracula has been retold so often it is nearly cliché, but the numerous renditions seldom do justice to the original – or even resemble it. For me, the greatness of Bram Stoker’s Dracula transcends the genre. An epic contest between good and evil, yes; but there is much more to this masterpiece. The terror, like a vampire, sneaks up on the reader subtly, and then manifests suddenly. But stoker, uses this mastery of subtlety to weave other themes among the terror, themes of courage and duty (of course), mercy, and sacrificial love. 


My rating: 4 1/2  of 5 Stars



I read this, along with a few other spooky stories, for the R.I.P. XIV Challenge.

Two disclaimers: This is not your teen girl’s sexy vampire – though there is a seductive sensuality in Stoker’s version, it is – at the risk of over using the word – subtle. Also, though considered a horror story, the blood, death, and violence is not terribly graphic, and I would recommend it even if you do not ordinarily read horror.

Excerpts:

Listen to them – the children of the night. What music they make! ~ Count Dracula referring to the howling of wolves

God keep me, if only for the sake of those dear to me! ~ Jonathan Harker

I am encompassed about with terrors that I dare not think of… ~ Jonathan Harker

Away from this cursed spot, from this cursed land, where the devil and his children still walk with earthly feet! ~ Jonathan Harker

God does not purchase souls in this wise; and the Devil, though he may purchase, does not keep faith. ~ Van Helsing

We want no proofs; we ask none to believe us! This boy will some day know what a brave and gallant woman his mother is. Already he knows her sweetness and loving care; later on he will understand how some men so loved her, that they did dare much for her sake. ~ Jonathan Harker


Vampire trivia: In some vampire legends (not Stoker’s version), vampires are afflicted with arithmomania – the obsessive need to count their actions or objects in their surroundings. This obsession can even be used as a defense by spreading seeds, or grains of rice in their way – which will confound them with the need to count the grains. And now – The Count, of Sesame Street fame, doesn’t seem quite so absurd does he?

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8 comments:

  1. I’ve heard this book isn’t the type of story you’d expect or what you may have been led to believe. I’m looking forward to reading this sometime soon.

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  2. Nice review. Everything you said is true...especially comparing it to today's vampire stories. This reminds me...I need to reread this, only more purposefully.

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    1. Thanks Ruth. I was really looking forward to this (which can sometimes lead to disappointment)...not this time.

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  3. Wasn't it good? I was a bit surprised how much I liked it when I read it--my first time--for last year's RIP. And as you noted, reading it back in the day, if you came to it fresh without all the vampire stories already in your head--it would have been even more spectacular.

    Anyway, fun review! Thanks!

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  4. This makes me want to revisit Dracula. Just a great book. Love the counting fact at the end there.

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