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maryann johanson | #BlackLivesMatter

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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