Dracula, Bram Stoker’s cornerstone of the Gothic genre was first published in 1897. While not the first vampire story, it certainly rose to be the pinnacle of this sub-genre, by which the dapper, Eastern European vampire count would come to represent all that is alluring and revolting about being and becoming an immortal blood-sucker.
There certainly is no room here to go into all the off-shoots that Stoker spawned with his masterpiece. What does need to be said is what vampires have become. Since Anne Rice’s Louis and Lestat, vampires have molted into representatives of sex and fantasy. These characters of her Vampire Chronicles have become the inventors of not just a fictional standard but of counterculture lifestyles. Twilight and The Vampire Diaries are the latest novel and movie editions to present vampires as sexy, bad boys that seduce teenage girls with their dark, mysterious qualities.
The estate of Bram Stoker finally allowed his great-grand nephew to bring the original character back to life in a sequel. It was with great anticipation that I picked up Dracula: The Un-Dead for the continuation of the original vampire of the Gothic tale I fell in love with many years ago. As wrapped up as I got, I admit it, with the new style of vampire perfected by Rice and imitated by so many others, I never lost that connection with the original that pulled me in. A villain of supernatural or, perhaps more appropriate, preternatural proportions, beaten by a valiant band of friends bonded in friendship through battling this mysterious being, led, of course, by a crazed old professor, whose knowledge of the un-dead should be questioned.
And that is it, all the good I can squeeze out. Avoid it as I may, I must relate my feelings about this sequel: horrible. “Bloody awful” could also be used, but avoided as it could be mistaken as a pun and a degree of levity would then be applied to this review and this book deserves no such break.
All semblance to the original novel is destroyed. The authors make it apparent very quickly that they are willing to ignore Dracula and simply tossing their hats into the ring to morph the greatest vampire into a member of the romance club for teenage girls. We find out that his encounter with Mina Harker in the original story was an act of love, and he has come back to reclaim her and clear his sullied name. Oh, wait, first issue I have with this reinvented character, clear his name for what reasons? The fictional public at large has no idea who this guy is, it could only be for the readers, huge authorial faux pas.
The characters in the first, become perverse level-ups from what was so memorable about them; Seward is a vampire hunter, Holdolm is a seasoned warrior, etc. 25 years after their encounter with the Count, they are still dealing with the traumatic effects, though their interactions are in contradictory manner. While they may not have seen each other in many years, their interactions and thoughts are of the closest friends. In fact, all of the characters think and act in some form of melodrama. Each expression is over the top. A pencil cannot be put on the table, it must be slammed. Things are yelled, fists are clenched, words are said that cannot be taken back and bodies are tensed at every moment. Nothing believable or sympathetic arises from these folk, again reminding me of characters found in pulpy (teen) fiction. Not once did I feel a connection, or emotion that I recognized and associated with to want me to become a part of their world.
The story centres around Mina, her son (with Dracula), Quincy and Dracula, as himself and in a thinly veiled disguise as the actor Bala… Readers, let’s just stop here. This book was not good. It displayed every creative writing mistake one could make. I did finish it. I do not know what I was hoping for, but the end was cheesier than the beginning or anything through the middle. Maybe it was a laugh, but one look at the just shy of 400 pages effort and the afterwards by the authors and an academic specializing in Gothic fiction which took this book far too seriously took any sort of humour out of me, it actually changed the bemusement to anger toward the defilers. If anything, Stoker and Holt convinced me to write about an idea that I am holding on to because I worry about my deficiencies as a writer, and that the idea itself is not good enough. With the two of them lowering the bar, there is hope for anyone to make a half-assed effort and still find a publisher.