Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Defiling the Undead

One of my favorite novels of all time is Dracula, by Bram Stoker. I read it as a teenager after seeing the 1992 Coppola film and fell in love with the book immediately. From the eccentric Dr. Van Helsing, the overwhelmed Johnathan Harker, the dashing Quincy Morris, and of course the iconic count himself, I loved all the characters. The locations were painted in a baroque poetry and the book itself was written in a style I'd never before considered: A collection of first hand journals penned by those who fell victims to the vile vampire.

My love of Dracula lead me to so many other things, especially in gaming. Ravenloft and Vampire: The Masquerade being the most obvious. Hell, I've got a tattoo from V:tM - that's the kind of impact vampires have had on me. Abraham is even on the short list of names my wife I have chosen should we ever have a song. We'd call him Bram of course. There's a kind of kismet between Stoker and I - or at least I like to think so. We were both sickly children, third in line and even share a birthday.

Well, in 2009 an official sequel was announced to the classic novel. It was written by Dacre Stoker, the senior Stoker's great nephew: Dracula: The Un-Dead. In all likelihood, it was primarily written by another, a co-author named Ian Holt - but given the quality of the novel, I can't say for certain.

I use the term quality loosely. The novel follows the principle cast of the original as they traipse around Europe and become inadvertantly responsible for major events of the late 19th and early 20th century. From Jack the Ripper to (I shit you not) the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic, Dracula apparently had a hand in all of it. The primary crux of the novel is that one of Dracula's female vampiric concubines is raising hell and Dracula, who is now painted as the misunderstood hero, has to put a stop to her evil ways. This female vampire is none other than Elisabeth Bathory, the Bloody Countess who, according to history, bathed in blood in the belief that it would keep her young.

Oddly enough, the novel begins quite strongly. We are introduced to a cast of characters whose life has been ruined by the events of the original novel. Mina and Johnathan Harker have a ruined, loveless marriage. Dr. Seward is addicted to heroin to stave off the memories of his experiences. Van Helsing is a crippled, broken old man who is considered a terrible person by the populous at large for performing experiments on corpses - oh, and Van Helsing is a vampire now and I can't even remember how. It's a believable and engaging first act as you see the lingering power of evil - except for the shitty Van Helsing thing. And young Quincey Harker, born at the end of the original novel, is now a young man bent on becoming an actor - much to his father's ire. He even apprentices himself to a dashing new figure, Basarab. The two have come to a Parisian playhouse to star in a stage production of Dracula directed by none other than Stoker himself. Basarab, is of course, the Count in the most poorly imagined disguise ever. Oh, and it gets worse.

A bunch of convoluted crap happens as Dracula hunts down Bathory - including Johnathan attempting to confront the count with (I shit you not) a katana - which gets him killed. In the end, Dracula and Bathory have their "epic" confrontation in the ruins of Carfax Abbey and the count is victorious. Mina witnesses it all and claims that she loved him all along, but married Johnathan because it was the proper thing to do. Oh, and Quincey is Dracula's son - not Johnathan's. Dracula decides he's too vile to live and in a grand, emo gesture, leaps from the heights of Carfax Abbey and bursts into flames in the rising sun. Mina, who has been bitten and turned into a vampire so she can be with Dracula, follows him into the sunrise.

Quincy, says "fuck this shit" and boards a ship bound for America - the Titanic.

This book feels more like a pulp yarn than a legitimate sequel to the classic novel. A tropey shlock fest that starts out strong, but gets worse with every word. It contradicts and re-writes the original novel. Feeling more like an attempt to get the name Dracula back in the hands of the Stokers or a money grab, it's a real insult to its source.

The thing is, it could be a fun book. An entertaining "what if" yarn. But claiming to be an official sequel ruins all of that.

1 comment:

  1. I felt much the same way when I read it 5 or so years ago.

    It read more like a sequel to the FFC movie than the novel.