I shall invite the wrath of many a fan by rating this classic work thusly.
No, don’t give me that look. Don’t call me stuck up and hard to impress. Quite the contrary when it comes to books. It’s just that I don’t take things at face value, and here’s why in my opinion, Dracula, for lack of a lovely Victorian era word, sucks.
Summary: Jonathan Harker goes to Transylvania to meet Count Dracula, who has purchased some property outside London. Jonathan is warned by the locals to take care of himself, though he does not know why they seem so scared. The Count tells Jonathan to not go to any of the locked up rooms as it is dangerous. Jonathan disobeys and finds himself with three women about to suck his blood. Dracula rescues him, and Jonathan believes it is all a dream. But pretty soon he realizes he is a prisoner, and the Count is – dead, sleeps in a coffin, and has never been seen in daylight. Jonathan escapes, and Dracula comes to London. Anything I say after this may be a spoiler, in case (however impossible it may be) you don’t already know the story.
There are a few reasons why I wanted to read Dracula.
a) it is a classic
b) I saw one of the film adaptations as a kid and developed a crush on the Count (yeah, weird, I know; don’t worry, I’m over him after reading the book)
c) it is considered the daddy of all vampire novels
For a moment, let’s forget this is a classic. It is hard to do so, because we know even before opening the book that the titular character is a vampire. This is something that we are not supposed to know, because Bram Stoker’s work is one massive buildup – which unfortunately falls flat on its face when we read it today, having already seen a gazillion adaptations. But that really can’t be the book’s fault, because Stoker had no idea of knowing that. No. His ambitious (?) work has other flaws. So let me rephrase, let’s try and forget this is a classic.
The characters all sound like one person. They all seem to have similar ideas and voices, they’re all shaking hands all the time, addressing each other as “my dear friend” and worst of all – they all write journals. This whole book has been told through their journal entries. It might have been an interesting writing technique, the whole multiple-POV idea could have turned out great, IF, they all didn’t sound so startlingly similar! All of them even write in the same manner, writing down dialogues between the characters as is, instead of using condensed reported speech, as would be the case in reality. Accents, dialects, even grammatical errors (of Van Helsing, who is Dutch) have been consistently noted down in these entries!!! How condescending do you have to be to write down dialogues in dialect?! Who does that? It is so unrealistic [You could argue that it’s a vampire novel and isn’t strictly speaking “realistic”, but that’s the whole point – an author is supposed to convince me vampires are real. If he can’t even convince me a bloody journal entry is real, then vampires can kiss my ass!]
Not only do the characters sound like one person, they all sound like offensive, racist, sexist people. But they refer to each other “Godsend good people” repeatedly. Lucy’s last entry is the worst and most unbelievable of it all – the woman is dying, but she writes a detailed entry, concludes it and only then faints. It’s not like she stayed up a minute after or before putting her concluding remarks. Surely, when there’s a scary monster in the locality, the intelligent thing to do is write (in excruciating detail) about the goodness of the men and women in one’s life. Frankly, Renfield was the only interesting character in this whole book. Oh yeah, he thoroughly disgusted me; it was wonderful!
When you read a classic, you learn a lot about the era it was written in – whether it be ballroom dancing or wars. The characters have distinct voices and they do not end up sounding like the author. Bram Stoker does not do this convincingly – all characters, as mentioned, sound same, and they sound like it could be him pushing his ideas into their mouths. Or journals. You learn nothing about the surroundings except – there’s a castle, there are letters, stamps, lots of telegrams, there are trains. There’s a bat outside the window. That’s about it.
The titular character – dude, where exactly are you in this book? Why is the book even named after you? You hardly have a role! It should probably have been titled The Never Ending Dehydration Of Lucy’s Gums. That would have made more sense.
The book does not end at all! Frankly, it began well with Jonathan Harker’s journal entries. Once that part was over, I honestly thought I was almost done with the book. I thought someone would come kill Dracula now. When I checked the progress on my eReader, it said 20% complete! Then I went on and on and on, and then Van Helsing entered the scene.
If I was a nineteenth century vampire, I would have killed that old bugger first!
The man is – strange. Speaks funnily, gives a name to his laugh (he calls it “King Laugh”) and in general, has verbal diarrhea. He never gets to the point, keeps gasping in shock, and just keeps praising people.
Now let me get to the main point – isn’t this book supposed to be creepy and scary and all? The movie adaptation I saw was quite scary, to be honest. Granted I was about 8 when I saw it but I was still pretty scared and probably would still be if I saw it today (don’t ask me which adaptation it was; I don’t know; I don’t even remember the story, just that it was scary). But as a book, no. In the beginning, when there were a lot of wolves howling; to be fair, that part was good. But then the bat flapping its wings at the window was just, funny. I mean if there was a bat outside my window, I would probably be freaked out, but if you’re writing it down to scare people, you should do a better job of it. Overall, the whole stretched out narration does not leave room for suspense or chills – you know Lucy is turning into a vampire without being told, you know when they open their coffin, you’re not gonna find her, you know who the “bloofer” lady is. You just do! Even RL Stine’s Fear Street is more creepy than this classic!
This book has so many adaptations that I am wondering if I am missing something. Or have I found a movie that’s better than the book? Or is it just popular because it’s the first of its kind? I know a lot of fans are offended by this review and their nostrils are flaring and all. Which is good. Because in this whole book, nostrils have more personality than any of the characters.
Rating: 2/5 (would’ve been 1 or less, but I liked Renfield’s bits and the first few chapters)