"I am Dracula; and I bid you welcome..."
Welcome to 2015 October Frights Blog Hop. We have a giveaway at the bottom of this post. And be sure to check out the other authors and their creepy coolness!
Meanwhile, I'm going to tell you --
Why Dracula by Bram Stoker is the most important thing that ever happened to me.
To call Dracula a formative book in my life is an understatement. I can divide my life into two phases: 1) Wasted years before reading Dracula, and 2) Useful years after reading Dracula. I grew up loving monsters. When I was 12 years old, I was in the bookstore looking for a book about monsters when my father grabbed a copy of Dracula and said “Here. If you’re going to read that stuff, at least read this.” From the moment Jonathan Harker traveled through the Borgo Pass into Transylvania, I never looked back.
I’m not claiming Dracula is the greatest book ever written. In many ways, it’s very uneven. Bram Stoker is all over the map, giving us a mashup of multiple Victorian styles in one book.
The first third is great. It’s a creepy story about Englishman Jonathan Harker traveling to Transylvania to the castle of the mysterious Count Dracula. In many ways, it’s a traditional gothic but with a good-natured but unsuspecting male real estate salesman in place of the usual good-natured but unsuspecting female governess. Suspense ramps up as Harker experiences the increasingly weird and threatening world of Castle Dracula. He manages to escape the dreadful vampire and his undead brides, but he doesn’t stop the Count from moving forward with his nefarious plot.
And that leads us to part two. This section is good, but not as tight as the first. The story returns to Britain and transforms into a mixture of a Victorian country novel and an unnerving melodrama about a woman succumbing to a mysterious wasting disease. We meet the two female leads, the doomed Lucy and the plucky Mina. We also find that Stoker isn’t particularly gifted in creating female characters. Both women are stereotypically consumed with the topic of prospective husbands. As male characters crowd the book around them, the two women drift into the background and become plot devices rather than actors. And there are a plethora of male characters in this section. We meet the bland gentlemanly Dr. Seward and his patient, the inspired character of the fly-eating lunatic Renfield. Then there’s the bland gentlemanly Arthur Holmwood (Lucy’s fiancé) and the less bland but confusing Quincey Morris, an American frontiersman who wandered into the book from God knows where. Jonathan Harker eventually straggles back in from Transylvania with useful intelligence on the Count. And finally, we get the wonderful Dr. Abraham Van Helsing who dominates the rest of the book. Van Helsing is the learned old nosferatu expert who works his Dutch fingers to the bone to stop the Transylvanian vampire predator (who actually just lives at the next house over now, but it takes the boys a while to figure this out). All these characters trip over one another while trying, and failing, to protect Lucy.
Even so, this section of the book, while crowded, is terrific. It’s a tense siege story as Van Helsing matches wits with Count Dracula, who is rarely seen but whose presence is always felt in the troubled house. And then it has a nice creepy ghost story feel after Lucy turns into a vampire and begins to prey on the unsuspecting countryside.
Stoker’s failure to breath more life into Lucy and Mina is unfortunate, however, particularly in terms of Mina. After poor vampire Lucy is staked by our stalwart heroes, Mina becomes the target of Count Dracula. She experiences a unique otherworldly connection to the Count, sparked by a pretty kinky scene where Dracula forces her to drink his blood while husband Jonathan Harker watches! Even so, we never get inside Mina’s head to know what she’s feeling other than the overwhelming sense of religious shame she expresses to her milquetoast hubby. A lost opportunity for what could have been a real groundbreaking female character.
The third section of the book is uneven and the least interesting part. It becomes a chase thriller about a band of intrepid heroes tracking a hissably evil villain who is threatening the virtue of Mina, and all chaste Englishwomen everywhere. Our boys gain the advantage on Dracula, taking advantage of his limitations as a vampire (they burn his boxes full of Transylvanian soil where he must rest during the day). Eventually the Count flees England and races for his home in Transylvania. The heroes pursue and we get a concluding chase scene that unfortunately fails to thrill quite as it should.
Still, despite the disappointing conclusion, this book has a hold on me unlike any other because of Count Dracula. He’s not just one of the greatest villains ever, he’s one of the greatest characters. And that’s impressive considering he hardly appears after the first third of the novel. But the sense of menace he represents shapes the behavior of all the characters. That is a tribute to Bram Stoker. No matter how much we might wish he had done more with Mina, or how much the book’s structure is like a collection of Victorian genres cobbled together, Count Dracula is a brilliant creation. He represents the terrible and attractive forces of the uncanny that we all fear exist in the shadows of our civilized world, and that might overwhelm us despite our best efforts.
On some level, because of Dracula, that’s pretty much all I write about now.
Is there anybody else out there who has been influenced by Count Dracula? Is he still the lord of vampires? Or has someone else taken that spot among the Un-Dead?
And we're having a give away! The winner will receive an autographed copy of our newest Vampire Empire novel due out in November called THE GEOMANCER. In addition, they will also win a cool Black Cat wine stopper (just like Pet), a set of six Grave tealight candles (fragrance free), and a vampire fang ice cube tray! There are multiple ways to enter. Just click on the Rafflecopter link below and good luck!
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