Sunday, July 25, 2010

October 7, 2009: ‘Dracula the Un-Dead’



A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the publication of Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt’s Dracula the Un-Dead, the first sequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula to be officially sanctioned by the Stoker estate. Having just finished the book it’s pretty obvious that the only reason this is so is because Dacre is Bram’s great grandnephew. The most interesting part of Dracula the Un-Dead is the afterward in which Stoker and Holt explain the research that went into the book: how they referred to Bram’s original notes to create new characters, how they culled historical details from Stoker’s age (although the co-writers often toy with history for the sake of fiction). The story that precedes the afterward is less interesting.

In brief, Mina and Jonathan Harker’s son Quincey (whose birth is mentioned in the epilogue of Dracula) has grown up to become an amateur actor awed by renowned thespian Basarab. Jonathan is an obnoxious drunk who wants his son to follow in his legal-eagle footsteps, and Mina is not-so secretly pining away for the creepy count twenty five years after her husband and his merry band of vampire hunters put him to rest. Or did they? Obviously, they didn’t, or there wouldn’t be a Dracula the Un-Dead. There are references to Elizabeth Bathory and Jack the Ripper; minor characters named after Dracula-portrayers Christopher Lee, Frank Langella, and Louis Jordan; and appearances by Hamilton Deane (the writer and producer of the stage play that inspired Tod Browning’s Dracula film) and Bram Stoker, himself. Such touches may suggest that Dracula the Un-Dead will develop into a freewheeling, imaginative, post-modern cartoon along the lines of Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula, but Stoker and Holt’s book is played with the general lack of humor that makes most vampire fiction a Gothic bore.

As I started reading Dracula the Un-Dead, I was distracted by the cliché-heavy, trite writing. There is none of Bram’s spooky ambiguity or the cache that comes with the epistolary format he used to compose Dracula. Then for a nice chunk of the book, I set such quibbles aside and allowed myself to get caught up in the plot, which is admittedly much clearer than that of Newman’s book, as well as the well-defined characters and the compelling central mystery (basically, which member of the substantial cast of characters is actually Dracula). Unfortunately, once this central mystery is solved, the story takes a quick turn back to the grave. I particularly hated the way the writers re-imagined Dracula’s motives and personality, robbing the character of his menace and mystique.

All this being said, a good three-quarters of Dracula the Un-Dead is a fleet-footed, entertaining read, and Dracula completists will probably want to give it a look. But they will most likely want to purge the liberties it takes with Bram Stoker’s original novel from their memories as soon as they finish reading this middling sequel for fear they’ll start thinking of Dracula in a new and less terrifying light.

Buy it here: Dracula The Un-Dead
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