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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

my reads: ‘Dracula, the Un-Dead,’ by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt

There have been many pastiches, sequels, continuations, imitations, and appropriations of Dracula, Bram Stoker’s classic vampire novel. But only this one has been approved and endorsed by Stoker’s family, and only this one was cowritten by one of his descedents, his great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker, and by a Dracula expert, Ian Holt.

Only this one is as big a bunch of hooey. It’s probably the funniest vampire novel I’ve ever read (though I haven’t read Stephenie Meyer yet)… certainly it’s the funniest Dracula book that isn’t meant to be funny.

It’s also ridiculously entertaining. Reading this novel meant coming to yet another absurd plot twist or character revelation and saying to myself, yet again, “No, really? They went there? Bwahahahaha!” only to keep on feverishly turning pages, eager to see how it all turned out.

Stoker and Holt move us a quarter of a century on from the events of Dracula, in a world in which Bram Stoker’s novel actually exists: the writer heard the “real” story of Dracula from a guy in a pub, which the author retold in fictional form, except he got a lot of it wrong. If you love Bram’s novel and don’t want to get that story “straightened out” for you, you might want to avoid Dracula, the Un-Dead. Or you might want to read it to see just how audacious Dacre and Holt can be, monkeying with a classic like they do. It’s as if someone took it upon himself to write Star Trek fan fiction, and started out by saying, “You know all that stuff Roddenberry told us about the birth of the Federation and the Vulcans befriending humanity and stuff? Well, that’s not how it happened…” And then he went to make up a ton of shit that sounds vaguely Star Trek-ish.
This new novel, set in 1912, mostly follows the exploits of Quincey Harker, son of Jonathan and Mina, who wants to be an actor, and not follow in his father’s lawyer footsteps. He’s sort of madly in love, in a distant fannish way, with a famous Romanian actor, Basarab, and ends up convincing the actor to come to London to play Dracula in a play of his own novel that theater manager Bram Stoker is trying to mount. Yeah, Bram Stoker is a character here, as well as a bunch of the original band of adventurers who defeated Dracula all those years back: Seward, Van Helsing, Jonathan and Mina… But they’re all being targeted by someone who seems to know what they did over in Transylvania all those years ago, and perhaps wants revenge. Or could Dracula himself still be alive?

Now, this would be enough of a cheeseball melodrama if it featured only lots of twisted, deviant sex and plenty gore-splattered violence. But it also throws in Jack the Ripper, the Titanic, and–

Well, I’ll say no more. Dracula, the Un-Dead is unintentionally hilarious but darn nigh unputdownable. On the whole, that’s a win.



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  • Orangutan

    This books sounds awful, but yet.. somehow… I want to read it. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME??

  • Cameron

    Hmm, what would the spoiler be? 1912 – isn’t that the year of Pygmalian? So Henry Higgins coaches the vampire in elegant diction. (“The rain in Spain..”)

  • The one and only real vampire story is Bram Stoker’s Dracula! Twilight books and True Blood television series will never get near it!

  • bats :[

    I’m reading “Shakespeare Undead,” and not enough into it to figure out where it’s going. This might be an also-read, too, but it’s been a gazillion years since I’ve read the original and might have to do that first.

    If you really want a taste of Twilight without wasting that much of your life, get the graphic novel. It certainly reads faster than the book. However, if you’d like more of the tone and gravitas of the book than a graphic novel affords, read each page of the graphic novel aloud. Slowly. Five times.

  • This may just be enough to get me to read the new “sequel.” ‘Cause, let’s face it, the original Bram Stoker novel is a combination of just enough truly compelling and scary stuff and stylistic panache with some really trite, hokey characterization and occasionally tedious plotting. (Contrast that scene with the three brides and Dracula’s horrible sack – an atmospheric masterpiece of terror! – with just about any passage involving Lucy’s milquetoast suitors. You take the good, you take the bad.)

  • Sounds like Mina and Anno Dracula are better. B)

  • Dare I ask what you thought of Elizabeth K.’s Dracula-themed novel The Historian, MaryAnn? That used to be a great deal just a few years back…

    Sounds like Mina and Anno Dracula are better. B)

    Yes, as much as I like Kim Newman’s vampire novels, I must admit that his first novel in the series–Anno Dracula–is the best.

    Marie Kiraly’s Mina has been waiting on my bookcase on ages, waiting for the proverbial rainy day. I really need to read that some day.

    Come to think of it, author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has done a couple of “spin-off” books detailing the backstories of Dracula’s various brides but I don’t know if she ever finished that series. I need to get to those some day soon, too.

    I did read William Mark Simmons’ One Foot in the Grave, a semi-comic novel that also features an alternative origin of Dracula. I liked it but I suspect MaryAnn may prefer something more serious…

  • Ahem:

    Marie Kiraly’s Mina has been waiting on my bookcase for ages, waiting for the proverbial rainy day. I really need to read that some day.

    Apparently there is a curse upon all my proofreaders…

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