No, denizens, this isn’t a reprint of my previous BookBin entry. See, there was a reason why I chose to re-read a book that I knew I had no intention of giving away. I wanted to refresh my memory and prepare myself for my first reading of the “official” sequel to Stoker’s classic.
First, a little bit of history. Bram Stoker’s orginal Dracula is considered to be part of the public domain here in the United States. It’s fallen under this classification since 1899. Why? Because apparently Stoker failed to comply with one requirement from the U.S. copyright office and…POOF. No more U.S. copyright. Open season was pretty much declared on the Dracula story by all interested American parties at that point, each knowing that they would never have to consult with any member of the Stoker family and each in turn slowly whittling away the dignity of the Dark Prince.
Swoop ahead 200 sparkling years later to the 2009 release of Dracula: The Un-Dead. Touted as “The Sequel to the Original Classic,” this is the Stoker family’s attempt to reclaim the rights to their ancestor’s legacy. The book is co-written by Dracula historian Ian Holt and Dacre Stoker, Bram’s great-grandnephew.
I’m not going to lie: Seeing a new Dracula book with the Stoker name on the cover? Gave me little chills and tingles, denizens. With all the insipid and uninspired nonsense that has come down the pipeline in recent years regarding the vampire mythology, I was elated to see that someone might actually want to put things right once more.
Where to begin. Were this in no way associated with the names Stoker or Dracula…if it were presented as its own original story…I might actually have nice things to say about it. It’s a decent enough story with characters that, if they were original to this tale, would be an intriguing (though decidedly miserable) melange of personalities, characteristics, and attributes. I would still have problems with certain aspects of the story, but not nearly as many as I have with it as the “official” sequel to Stoker’s novel.
As the official sequel, Dracula: The Un-Dead is a murky mash-up in which the real and the fictional mingle in oftentimes disturbingly meta ways (including interactions between Bram Stoker himself and his characters), and which ultimately devolves into a disappointing concession to the years of bastardization that our dear Dark Prince has suffered at the hands of far less talented writers than Stoker.
The real Stoker, that is.
At first, I thought that my only major issue with Dracula: The Un-Dead would be the “character” of Countess Elizabeth Báthory. I use quotations because this is one of the instances of a real historical figure appearing within the parameters of this novel. Countess Báthory is most notoriously known as the “Blood Countess” or “Countess Dracula.” She was a member of Hungarian nobility made infamous by accusations that she tortured and killed hundreds of girls and then bathed in their blood as a means of pursuing eternal youth.
True or not, the infamy has secured her a place in the darkest depths of history. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see her as a vampire. No, the stretch would come with other aspects of her fictionalized character. I won’t burden you with revealing details. Just know that this is a disappointing character, shoe-horned into the original mythology in disappointing ways.
That can be said of many characters in this novel. What’s worse, however, is how the original characters are treated. Stoker’s novel left us with a “band of heroes” who were admittedly bloodied, but not broken—at least not in the ways in which they have been depicted in this sequel. I’m not saying that I can’t imagine they wouldn’t have suffered both immediate and long-term effects from all that they witnessed and all the actions they were forced to take throughout their adventure. I’m sure the PTSD therapy alone would have been through the roof…had they known what PTSD was back then.
However, this sequel paints a holistically miserable existence for every single one of them, right down to poor young Quincey Harker, the son born to Mina and Jonathan at the end of the original novel. I suppose he could be considered the protagonist of this sequel, but only in the way that Jonathan Harker could be considered the protagonist in the original. Both of these stories are ensemble pieces, with several characters bearing the weight of action throughout.
All these things I could somewhat forgive or at the very least tolerate. I could even forgive the authors for tweaking timelines and settings to make certain aspects of their story and Stoker’s original story dovetail in more convincing ways.
The one thing I cannot abide and refuse to forgive them for is this:
DRACULA IS NOT A LOVE STORY.
It’s not, denizens. I just re-read it, and if you are absolutely desperate to call it a love story, then it could only be seen as one type of love story: the story of the love shared between Jonathan Harker and Mina Murray. Period. End of discussion.
It is not, however, a love story for the Count. It is the story of his desperate bid to continue as an immortal. That’s not love. That’s survival.
So what do these two brainiacs do? Allow me to quote you something directly from their authors’ notes:
We know there is a large segment of Dracula fans that have only seen the movies and have never read the book, and of course we wanted to inspire many of those folks to read Bram’s original. Our dearest wish is all Dracula fans—of the book and of the films, will read and enjoy our sequel. To this end there are several areas which we felt that film fans had so embraced and had become so ingrained into Dracula legend that we could not overlook them. To the literary purists we apologize, but we feel this is a necessary concession, made in the hope of once and for all harmonizing Dracula fans.
The concessions are as follows: the romance between Mina and Dracula; the ability of vampires to walk in daylight, fly, and transform themselves; the weapons used to destroy them; and the location and names of certain geographical sites.
I need a moment to repress the full force of my rage.
I read this section of their notes and thought that perhaps I’d suddenly suffered some form of brain fever that was causing me to lose my ability to comprehend what I was reading. These self-appointed “historians” and “keepers” of Stoker’s novel CHANGED THE ORIGINAL STORY TO REFLECT THE CRAP THAT HAS BEEN DILUTING THE LEGACY THEY CLAIM TO WANT TO RESTORE?!?! TO “HARMONIZE ALL DRACULA FANS”?!?!
YES, YES I AM SHOUTING RIGHT NOW. I CAN’T NOT SHOUT.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING?!?!
I’m sorry to unleash such blue language, but seriously? SERIOUSLY? You altered the true intent of your ancestor’s novel to pander to a bunch of bored Mary Sues with nothing better to do than lean a little too hard against the washing machine during spin cycle and fantasize about vampire penetration?
This was the tipping point as far as I was concerned. The ridiculous ending and the obvious setup for a sequel to this piffle were merely the flies and stink on an already festering pile of doo.
Final Verdict: This book has taught me that disappointment knows no limits beyond that of the word itself to truly capture my feelings toward what I had hoped would be a wonderful continuation of one of my favorite stories.