Dracula, part deux, is melodramatic at times. The plot twists in the third act skirt the borders of ridiculous, and…
Who am I kidding? I devoured it.
Was it Masterpiece Theater?
No. (The original wasn’t either. It was considered a vulgar penny dreadful in its day.)
Was it completely faithful to the original?
No. (Stoker’s Dracula departed from the mythos of Vlad, too.)
Was it what I expected?
No. (Is a good book ever exactly what we expect?)
If you’re a purist, thirsting for a rehash of the original, don’t bother reading this book. If, however, you’re open to a modern interpretation of the classic, look no further. Dracula: The Un-Dead is a ripping good read, a page turner with lots of turn of the century intrigue and atmosphere.
It feels fitting for Holt and Stoker collaborate on the project. Ian Holt is one of the world’s leading experts on the Dracula legend. With considerable ingenuity, Holt anchors the plot in the world of Victorian England. Holt’s attention to minute historical detail is evident in the first few pages. Dacre Stoker, Bram’s great grandnephew, lends the book a well-written narrative infused with gothic sensibilities.
While Bram’s Count Dracula began in 1887, Un-Dead picks up the thread in the year 1912. A quarter century has changed the band of heroes who first dispatched the Count. Mina, tainted by Dracula’s blood, has aged little. Her estranged son, Quincey, shrinks from her presence.
The men, haunted by the spectre of the vampire, fare far worse. Mina’s husband, Jonathan Harker, cannot shake the memory of her betrayal. He retreats into a drunken stupor. Dr. Jack Seward, Lucy’s unrequited suitor, is a mere shadow of himself. His morphine addiction drives him to near madness. Arthur Holmwood, Lucy’s fiance, abandons his friends and family to pursue a reclusive life. Abraham Van Helsing is no longer the stalwart doctor; he is a shrunken wisp of man haunted by gruesome deeds.
The characters are well drawn and the story begins in an opportune era. 1912 sees the dawn of a new age. Electric lights, garishly illuminating, replace the gaslights of old London. Underground trains and motorcars whiz past the horse drawn carriages. The time of Jack the Ripper gives way to the age of machines. It seems the perfect moment for Dracula’s evolution.
“Time has finally caught me…There is no place in this age of machines and politicians and intellect for monsters roaming the countryside. Choose to evolve, or choose to die.”
Although the authors take great care in crafting a believable coda to Bram’s original story, this sequel is a definite departure from Bram’s one hundred year old novel. Bram’s story was told through diary entries and news stories. Un-Dead is written in omniscient third person.
Furthermore, Dracula is no longer the evil count. He is recast as the dark but noble Prince. No longer the villain, he becomes the sensual savior, ridding the world of another menace. In Un-dead, another blood soaked historical figure, Countess Elizabeth Bathory, becomes the true monster.
For me, this plot point is the only flaw. For all its rich historical detail and its brisk action, Un-Dead unravels the mystique of the vampire a bit too much. Humanizing Dracula comes at a handsome price. Dracula’s appeal rests in his shadowy nature. His monstrous ambiguity is what renders him so intriguing. When the monster becomes the hero, his actions justified, something is lost. Although Dracula still mesmerizes, it seems all the good villainy is squandered on Bathory.
Despite the role reversals, Dracula: The Un-Dead holds the reader in its fanged embrace until the last page is turned. Bram’s beloved characters live on in this sequel.
For the story behind the story, check out Holt and Stoker’s official blog.
Still hungry for more? Try this scrumptious Blood Red Velvet Cake.
1 ½ cup sugar
¼ cup red food coloring
2 ¼ cake flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup regular milk with plus 1 tbsp lemon juice)
2 tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. baking soda
Beat shortening and sugar together until creamy. Add eggs and beat on medium for one minute. Add salt. Dissolve cocoa in buttermilk and add alternately with flour. Add food coloring (hope the vampires in your house aren’t allergic to red dye) and vanilla. Dissolve soda in vinegar and stir into batter. Bake in three layers or in a 9 by 13 pan for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees.
Frost after cake has cooled.
1 cup milk
5 tbsp. cake flour
Cook in medium saucepan until thickened. Let cool. Beat together 2 sticks butter, 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla. Add to paste and beat until fluffy.