Friday, 1 January 2010

Dracula - The Un-Dead

I’ve already written a post about this novel in my normal blog. In this post, though, I’m going to discuss the book in more detail. First things first: The novel is a sequel to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (originally also named “Dracula The Un-Dead”). There has been another sequel before, written by Freda Warrington, but this one is more close to the original text.

Twenty-four years have passed, Quincey, the son of Jonathan and Mina Harker, has grown into an adult, studying law on his father’s wishes, but really striving for a career as an actor. It’s through his eyes, mostly, the reader learns of the story. That’s quite a nice touch, because like this, the reader doesn’t have to read “Dracula” first to understand the sequel. As Quincey was not around when it all happened, he learns about it from various sources (even Bram Stoker himself, whom he meets in the story).

As Stoker never really dated the events (and they can’t be guessed from any hints in the novel), they are usually thought to have happened around 1897, the first publishing date of the novel. The new novel puts a new perspective on it: everything happened 1888. ‘Why this date?’ you might wonder. Well, Jack the Ripper killed his five victims in 1888 and in the sequel, Jack the Ripper not only was a vampire, but also a woman: Elisabeth Bathory. The Countess Bathory is a historical figure, just like Dracula himself.

The world has changed since then, but all in the sudden, old evils come back to haunt the once fearless vampire hunters (all of whom still live, save for Quincey Morris, who dies at the end of Stoker’s novel). But the evil is not Dracula, it’s Elisabeth.

Dr. Seward is the first to meet the Countess and the first to be killed by her. It is from his death onwards Quincey Harker becomes the main point-of-view character, as young Quincey is a witness to the other man’s death. While Elisabeth diminishes the group of former hunters, Quincey has to come to term with the fact that the people from the book (“Dracula” was published, but Stoker heard the story from someone) and the play (which Stoker tries staging at the time of the novel) are people he knows.

Dacre Stoker (a descendant of Bram Stoker) and Ian Holt (a specialist on “Dracula”) have worked out a very plausible story (that is, if you want to believe in vampires in the first place). They used Stoker’s notes to find out which characters and situations he planned, but didn’t include into the finished story. Some of them – like an inspector from Scotland Yard who investigates Draculas (or rather: Elisabeth’s) crimes in London – are given a face and a voice in the new novel. There’s also a tip to the hat to the man who played Dracula more often than all others: Christopher Lee, whose last name is also the last name of the sergeant helping the inspector.

There are also hints Stoker wanted to start his novel with another vampire, a female one, whom Harker should meet somewhere in Austria or Hungary. Elisabeth Bathory is a Hungarian noblewoman. It fits pretty well. As Stoker created female villains for two of his later novels (“The Jewel of Seven Stars” and “The Lair of the White Worm,” there’ll be a post about the latter coming up soon as well), it’s not completely impossible he wanted to include one into Dracula, too. In the end, though, the women only got the smaller roles as the three brides, the first victim (Lucy) and the intended second victim (Mina). While Mina is one of the Fearless Vampire Hunters, she still is a person that needs, to a certain degree, protection and male help.

And yes, Dracula himself turns up in the novel as well – otherwise why name the book “Dracula” as well? But he’s no longer the really bad guy, that’s Elisabeth (who is no guy). Those who want to look behind the ‘original’ work and, maybe, find out how all of the original characters fared after the end of Stoker’s novel, should definitely read this sequel. It has quite some surprises to offer.

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