Saturday, October 23, 2010

Girl on Book Action: Dracula: The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt

Dracula: The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker & Ian Holt
ISBN: 978-0-14-317228-4


It is 1912, twenty-five years after Dracula “crumbled into dust.”  Vampire-hunter Van Helsing’s protégé, Dr. Jack Seward, is now a disgraced morphine addict who’s convinced that Countess Elizabeth Bathory, a murderous, raven-haired beauty born in 1560, still walks the earth.  Meanwhile, the intelligent and capable Mina, wife of Jonathan Harker, has her own concerns: her son Quincey has finally learned his parents’ terrible secrets, but not soon enough to prevent Jonathan’s brutal murder in Piccadilly Circus.

Someone is stalking the band of heroes who defeated Dracula.  Could it be that Dracula somehow survived their attack and is seeking revenge?  Could it be that love never dies?

Based on Bram Stoker’s own handwritten notes for characters and plot threads, this is the bone-chilling sequel to the timeless classic Dracula.


My Thoughts:

If you’ve been following along, you are no doubt aware that I’ve read and reviewed several books dealing with Count Dracula, ranging from a historical novel depicting the life of the real Vlad the Impaler (C.C. Humphreys' Vlad: The Last Confession) to tales based loosely on what Stoker began (Kostova's The Historian) to unofficial sequels (Marie Kiraly’s Mina).  But this, this is a sequel endorsed and approved by the Stoker family, co-written, as it were, by Bram’s great-grand-nephew and well, it’s not very good. 

Now, I know some of you may be sitting at your computers with a tiny sneer and the words “I could have told you so” running through your head.  I assure you, I wasn’t expecting to read the best novel ever, but at times this was barely readable.  Considering that there were two authors, probably multiple early readers, as well as at least one editor, the fact that there are missing words and numerous typos and grammatical mistakes is, well, unacceptable, really.  It was so bad that I very nearly got out my trusty correcting pencil and the whole ordeal made my jaw ache from clenching it so tight.  I know that I always complain about typos, but I think this book comes in as a close second to the “Book with the Most Terrible Typos” award.  I won’t name number one since I'm not about to name-drop.  That would be uncouth. 

Anyway, moving right along now that my eternal griping on careful editing with regards to typos has been concluded.  I will be discussing plot points in this review, so if you want to read this novel and care for the not-so-subtle mystery to be intact, I suggest you just stop reading this post now.  If you have no such scruples, let me tell you why this story is terrible.

Honestly, I don’t even know where to start there is so much wrong here.

First, and most problematic for me, is that Dracula becomes the hero in this book at the expense of Elizabeth Bathory.  No longer is Count Dracula the evil vampire coming to England and killing women, rather, he is tracking Bathory and attempting to stop her from murdering prostitutes.  This change in the story transforms Bathory into Jack the Ripper and Dracula into a misunderstood benefactor.  Indeed, he turns Lucy into a vampire, not out of his own desire, but because Van Helsing has killed her with his blood transfusion and Dracula could not stand to see her life extinguished.  I’m about ready to gag myself with a spoon.  The portrayal of Bathory got all of my feminist hackles up.  Yes, she was a monster who tortured and murdered girls, but in this book she becomes the ultimate violator and destroyer.  In one scene, she even rapes Mina.  Through Stoker’s and Holt’s words, Bathory’s bloodlust is associated with her lesbianism, thus painting her desire for women as evil.  I like to think that they were attempting to show that the intolerance shown for her sexual orientation is the source of her evil and that if she had met with a kinder reception she would not have been a monster, but that wasn’t at all clear and it needed to be.  And Dracula as the hero, ugh.  Other books have somewhat humanized Dracula as a character, but the ones that I have read have done so through Mina’s eyes and her attempts to come to terms with her desire for the vampire, none of them have actually turned him into a benefactor.  Ultimately, he is always a monster, feasting on the blood of the living to survive.  Here, he is like the near-unbearable Ricean Louis, drinking only the blood of animals.  Pathetic is what we like to call that around here.

I could write essays about all that, but there are other issues to address.  Such as the book being way longer than it needs to be at 545 pages.  There is a whole subplot about the police investigation into the Jack the Ripper murders which really didn’t need to be there.  It just started to feel like they were trying to incorporate as many historical names as they could into the book (let me call a spade a spade and say that the authors are uncouth enough to name drop).  Of course, it also featured an appearance by Bram Stoker himself and an explanation that he heard the story from Van Helsing, who was trying to immortalize his name.  Just dreadful.  I won’t even try to count how many different points of view there were, because I think I might cry if I had an actual number, suffice to say: there were too many bloody points of view.  The writing, when it wasn’t filled with typos and omitted words, was mediocre at best.  Oh, and last (because I really need to wrap this up) but not least, why won’t Dracula stay dead?  He supposedly died at the end of Stoker’s novel, but that was a trick.  Then, Bathory tried to kill him right after, and that was another ruse.  He was caught in a fire, burnt to a crisp, but still survived, then Bathory eviscerated and drained him nearly dry and he still didn’t die.  In the pivotal final battle he is stabbed, his throat is slit and he gets caught in the sun and bursts into flames before plummeting off a cliff into the ocean, but at the end it is suggested that both he and the now vampiric Mina who followed his fiery swan dive off the cliff are still alive and following Quincey to America – aboard, get this, THE TITANIC.  Yeah, I don’t think I need to say anything else…

In closing, the only positive thing I have to say is that there are kernels for good stories in here and perhaps in the hands of a more skilled authorial team it could have been a good book.  As it is, I recommend you stay away, or at the very least enter into it with the understanding that no matter how low your expectations for it are, you are going to be disappointed and possibly enraged.

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