|Writing a review of Dracula: the un-dead
is not simple as this book cannot be judged as a standalone volume. Dracula:
the un-dead is the official sequel to Bram Stokers Dracula
(with the former being written by a great nephew of the author of the latter), which
spawned its own sub-genre of novels, films and vampire lore, and needs to be judged in
that light too.
The novel itself
Dracula: the un-dead is Dacre Stokers and Ian Holts
first book. In the author acknowledgements they freely admit their love of the whole
Dracula phenomenon, particularly the movies. The result is a very cinematic novel, at home
in the world of 1912 London and Paris, with richly described landscapes through which the
action happens. Unfortunately, the characters have been under-drawn and in most cases
boarding on caricature and cliché, and there was a prodigious number of them (characters,
not cases); bit players who added little if anything to the development of the story.
If I was to leave the review here, I would say that the book was an interesting
footnote to the whole milieu of Dracula. A competently written book, neither good nor bad,
a pleasant enough little read if suffering a bit from gratuitous name dropping.
But there is more
As official sequel
Two years ago I read Dracula, for which this is the
official sequel, and so I had expectations as to the style and content of this book. I was
greatly disappointed. Dracula was written in the form of letters,
diary entries, newspaper reports and the like, making the horror much more effective as
the diarist and letter writers struggled to express what they had seen. Unfortunately, the
authors of Dracula: the un-dead chose to reveal their story in the
traditional novel format and at the same time to correct errors(!) in vampire lore that
existed in the original. In short these novelists believed Hollywood had got the vampire
tradition right, Bram Stoker had it wrong, and it was their job in the sequel to correct
Brams mistakes. Incidentally, these mistakes included the year when the action in
the original occurred.
As the story unfolded misunderstood and misrepresented, no longer Count but Prince,
Dracula returns battling his nemesis and distant relative Elizabeth Bathory. Back stories
and motives are supplied for all (bit players and central characters alike) after
all, why would Dracula and Bathory, two very popular fictional vampires be fighting, how
and why did Mina and Jonathan Harker meet and so on for no dramatic effect. For
reasons I couldnt fathom, historic events got woven in to improve the authenticity
of the historicity of the novel, for example the first Paris-London flight and the maiden
voyage of the kitchen sink, I mean, The Titanic.
The story in the novel was supposedly based on Bram Stokers own notes, suggesting
Bram was contemplating a major change in direction from his original script; but then
again this could be true in the same way that nylon is based on crude oil. If I were to
start discussing author motives I would soon degenerate to a slanderous tone and may not
know when to stop.
So while Dracula may or may not have been a literary
masterpiece, as a work that almost singlehandedly spawned a whole sub-genre, its official
sequel deserves to be better, much better, than this effort. If you enjoyed Bram
Stokers Dracula avoid this book, otherwise expect a lot of
heartache; for I wish I had.