As will be with this and future entries involving reviews: depending on my level of interest, I will go into great detail. Thus, S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.
It recently occurred to me while playing the hidden object game Dracula: Love Kills on Steam–I’d never experienced the true story of Dracula. Rather, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’ve played plenty of games, heard plenty of alternate versions based on Bram Stoker’s piece, sure, but never the original. Part of this has to do with the fact that I’ve never been particularly fascinated by vampires. I enjoy them as far as supernaturals go, but have mostly dulled my ears since childhood to their tales of blood, strength, and corruption. Since then, vampires have expanded their horizons (in some rather odd ways, really). But what of Dracula, the king of vampires?
What finally pushed me to read? I heard part of the BBC production of Dracula, and it occurred to me that the woman they were mentioning was rather important… and I’d never even heard of her! Her name is Lucy, the first true binding catalyst between the cast of characters in Dracula. I wouldn’t go so far as to call her the vampire’s first victim, because Jonathan holds that distinction in my mind, but she is the first in the pages to be “baptized in blood”.
This was not a smooth read for me, and it took some weeks to complete. I am unsure if the figurative blame lies with the method of story-telling. Though I found it quite enjoyable, it took a bit more effort than normal writing to piece the events together properly from all perspectives–but this did not dissuade me from doing so. It effectively drew me in closer to the story, feeling very much the interested ghost hovering over the shoulder of each narrator as they unfolded their tale. I enjoyed discovering the horror through Jonathan’s eyes most of all, because it was very much a moment of discovery for my self. What was the true description of Dracula in this tale? What was his mannerism, his reason? These were things I didn’t know.
Renfield was a secret joy. I was very much interested in how an insane aslyum patient was to be treated in this story (for reasons both clear and vague, if you know me). There were parts that were painful to read for both he and Mina, the dramatic realization that Dracula was visiting both hitting before any fact. And all the while, Renfield went through his phases of collecting creatures, of being clear and aloof, of pleading and going wild. Yet despite these things, Renfield, neither good nor evil but simply lacking in the common view of sanity, attempted to defeat Dracula for Mina’s sake.
Mina was very much the Helen of Troy. The men constantly pledged themselves to her protection, were motivated by her strength during their weakness, etc. While tiresome to read repetitively, it was necessary. They needed a binding point, a reason to continue to chase the darkness as it moved. Her imminent transformation was the strongest motivator they could all actively share. Sure, Lucy brought them all together, and her transformation taught them all the meaning of loss and the hope of freedom. She paved the way for Mina. How could they stop their pursuit, knowing they could save another loved one from such a fate?
The truest surprise for me was that, in the end, even Dracula was capable of being relieved from his corruption, even his soul savable. Bram Stoker didn’t condemn him to Hell; he freed the man behind the monster. The realization that this could actually happen didn’t hit me until Mina actually asked her companions to free the man. Curious to me, most variations I’ve experienced had the monster live on, defeat his pursuers, outsmarting them at the last moment. The victims who were baptized in blood change, too. Once, I was charged with freeing Jonathan, who still had some good to him as far as I understood (which, having read the original, seems implausible). It interested me that this was the sort of vampire that is the epitome of corruption. Those who are transforming lose their humanity, interest, emotion. In Lucy’s fading, she actually developed the persona of her vampire self before she was truly undead. Many reads depict vampires as simply being a sort of person who happens to be corrupted. If and when they change, it is due to the years’ of life and experience taking its toll on them. Time itself. Or maybe even their killings. In Dracula’s world, it seemed the thing of an instant. A creature of cruelty itself, its only true freedom from itself being a ceremonial death.
As with publications from this time period, there is a distinct repetition of what a man’s place is, what a woman’s place is (yes people, ideas and popularly-held beliefs can change over the years!), but it is more focused on inner strengths of character and not so distasteful as other reads. Otherwise the piece isn’t too dated. The forms of communication between the characters is likely to be the largest issue with a new or young reader, as there is no common mention of stenographs and the like these days. Where Jonathan or Van Helsing would send a post to someone, we send text messages. Where we blog, they recorded through shorthand, diaries, and (a new luxury!) portable typewriters.
I gave the read a 4/5, accounting for the difficulty in reading and some few things that bungled my brain as I read. The best example would be the actual ending to the journey–because that’s what it is. The ending of a journey. The journey to defeat Dracula is long and arduous, high-strung, stressful… and it ends in a flash. It would prove difficult for them to defeat Dracula in another manner, had he not been incapacitated. The entire purpose of their efforts was to defeat him in such a way. So the difficulties they encountered were with the journey itself, not the defeat (if you can so casually toss aside Morris’ life–Bram Stoker himself took an effort to not do so!). Because the story is of Dracula and the events surrounding him, it is therefore abruptly concluded upon his release.
On that note, I will abruptly conclude this review. Cheers!