Bram Stoker. Norton Critical Edition, 1986. Originally published 1897. 488 pages. Gothic tale.
The story of Dracula is one of the best-known horrors of all time, and though the book is over a century old, the story is still read avidly by readers across the globe.
But let’s be honest. The world is not like it was a century ago. For one thing, we spend quite a lot of our time watching television. Series, commercials, movies. And a considerable amount of these movies are horrors. You could almost say that we are used to them by now. We are no strangers to the image of blood splattering across the wall, and we have all heard the sound of terrifying screams filling the night. Fictionally speaking that is. We have gotten exceptionally talented at deciphering when something is merely special effects and solid acting.
So while Dracula is still clearly a Gothic horror, it does not have the terrifying effect that it might have had even just a few decades ago. That is not to mean that the story isn’t a worthwhile read. It’s fascinating, symbolically sexually charged, and an interesting view into a different world. But frightening? Not so much.
The story is intriguing. Who wouldn’t love a story of sexually deviant creatures, tragic love, and well-written characters? Even as we see beyond Dracula, there are plenty of worthy characters to pick from. Jonathan. Lucy. Lucy’s three suitors and the helpful doctor. And Mina, who I will argue is indeed the most interesting character among the humans. Mina has guts. In a story populated by men and women, whose key characteristic is their sexuality, Mina is intelligent, hard-working, and invaluable in the mission to kill the monster.
Another fascinating character is, of course, Dracula, who has become a true icon of what exactly a vampire is. He is indeed the saving grace of the story. Not because he is that horrifyingly frightening, but because of how fascinating it is to experience, first hand, the birth of countless adaptations.
So there are definitely plenty of good things to say about the story. Did the author successfully scare the bejeezus out of me? No. It was not a horrifying tale. We need quite a bit more to shock us nowadays.
But the language was surprisingly easily read considering the time period, and the story was relatively easy to follow. While it wasn’t a book that engrossed me so well that I accidentally ended up burning my dinner, neither was it a book I had to struggle my way through. It was interesting, it captured my attention, and though I was never shocked by either the plot or the monster, neither was I ever bored.
It was a perfectly adequate book that I might even go so far as to call good, and so I will give it the adequate, leaning towards good, score of three stars. I won’t hesitate to recommend it to a friend, who wishes to read more classical literature, but for the many readers out there who almost solely read Stephen King? I would suggest that you keep on looking, for you will not get that delicious shock from Stoker.