Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Review - Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Title:  Dracula
Author:  Bram Stoker
Genre:  Horror
Rating:  3.75 out of 5 fangs

An ancient evil lurks in a decrepit castle in Transylvania.  The natives know well enough to give the mansion a wide berth, but the ignorance of a young Englishman, Jonathan Harker, threatens to spread a plague of living death throughout England.  Dracula has long been known as a classic of suspense and horror.  L&M finally gets a chance to sit down with Mr. Stoker's masterpiece.

Dracula tells the tale of a group of people who live in and around London.  It begins when Jonathan Harker, a real estate lawyer, visits Count Dracula in Transylvania.  The Count recently purchased a mansion in England, and wishes to learn everything he can about the culture before he moves.  We quickly learn about the horrific reality of Dracula, and follow the main characters as they struggle to undo the evil that has been done to their loved ones.

The novel is written in the form of a journal, or more accurately, in the form of the journals of many of the main characters.  I always loved the idea of telling a horror story in the first person, as the reader only knows what the characters know.  This method builds up a lot of suspense.  Almost all of the main characters have a journal, which gives a variety of viewpoints on the happenings of the book.  While this is a good way in which to tell the story, I imagine it is somewhat unrealistic.  Although people may have been more into writing journals in Victorian England, the amount of detail and exhibition included in the entries borders on ridiculous.  How does one write 30 pages about an event that lasted only a few minutes?

The characters in Dracula, while interesting, tend to be somewhat two-dimensional.  Mina Harker is the beautifully intelligent young woman, Quincy Morris is the rough-riding American from Texas, Arthur Holmwood is the English gentleman.  But although we may have seen all of these archetypes before, the situations that Stoker puts them in are unique (to the period anyway), and this is where Dracula truly shines.

The story of Dracula includes some very shocking and interesting scenes, including a recently deceased woman drinking the blood of children, three beautiful and deadly vampires, and an empty ship captained by a dead man.  This is what really keeps the reader forging through the novel.

Although perhaps not fully realized, I believe Dracula deserves its place in history and literature.  The lore introduced and embellished in the novel has dramatically affected an entire genre of horror writers.  I ultimately enjoyed Dracula, and would recommend it to any hardcore horror enthusiast or those who enjoy classic literature.

3.75 out of 5 fangs.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for this book, ending August 27th (this Friday!)


  1. I am most definitely not a hardcore horror enthusiast, and actually do not care for horror(I always think Stephen King), but I do like the vampire lore. Classic literature is of interest to me, so ultimately, I am very curious about this book. I wonder, do you think that some of the difficulties that you had with the book is because of when it was written? In other words, it is not written from our modern day perspective therefore stuff like journal writing in detail seems a bit foreign, not realistic? When I read classic literature, I try to keep in mind the time-period from when it was written - it helps me to believe a bit more of what is written. You say you enjoyed the book, but let me ask you, did you enjoy it in the sense that it was good, and did not bore you, or did you enjoy it in the sense that you could not wait to read more of it? I am thinking it was the former. Anyway, I enjoy reading your review, and I am going to read this book this Fall. Hope I like it.

  2. Thanks for the thoughts, ibeeeg. I have to admit that I didn't LOVE the book, but I was also not disappointed. The writing style was definitely a little foreign to me, but I am unsure of whether this is due to the time period. The only similar stuff I have read from the early 1900s is H.P. Lovecraft's work, which seems to tend away from the excessive exposition I've noticed in Stoker's Dracula. With regards to your aversion to "horror", I wouldn't worry. This brand of horror (as well as that of Lovecraft) is all about suspense and fear of the unknown. There is little to no overt blood or guts. If you think of the modern slasher movie as having characters for the sole purpose of being killed, you can think of these tales as the exact opposite: they focus on how the characters are affected by their situations.

  3. Well Nick, it is good to know about horror also falling into a category of suspense and fear of the unknown. I can read that, but I will never be able to watch it.
    Blood and guts type of stuff, I am actually okay with, believe or not. To clarify, I am okay with in regards to how it is utilized in fantasy reads as well as some historical fiction action type reads. But for it to be used in the sense of the modern slasher type movie stuff, way, can't stand it then.

    I have not heard of Lovecraft but if his work is similar to that of Stoker's then maybe I will give some of his books a read. I looked him up and looks like he wrote a lot so if I do go his way I will have to search out which book would be best to start with.

    By the way, ultimately I am a character driven reader so if you are saying that Dracula and books by Lovecraft are character driven then I think I will be okay with them.

  4. I'm stopping by via The Maiden's Court -- I'm so excited for Dracula week!

    I'm not a vampire girl myself, but I do love the original Dracula. As a fan of epistolary novels, I never found Stoker's journal entries laughable, but now that you mention it, it is pretty unlikely!

    If you ever come across Leonard Wolf's annotated edition of Dracula, I highly recommend it -- the footnotes are great. There's even a recipe for one of the Hungarian dishes mentioned!

  5. @ibeeeg - I will be having an H.P. Lovecraft week here in the (hopefully) near future - so stay tuned! I can strongly recommend his works The Call of Cthulhu and Shadow Over Innsmouth (my personal favorite). I'm not sure if you found this website in your briefs travels, but has all of his stories available online to read for free. let me know what you think!

    @Audra - I'm glad your excited, we have a lot of great stuff planned!

  6. This has long been one of my favorite books and I'm glad to see others in the blogosphere giving it it's due. Dracula is that archtype character that I tend to compare other literary vampires too (Carmilla Karnstein and Sir Francis Varney being two others that I feel the same way about).

  7. Hi Nick. I read Dracula. It did not blow me away, but I did like the read. Thanks for the book; I am glad I read it.
    I posted my thoughts on my blog, if you are curious.