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Bram Stoker

average rating is 5 out of 5

Vampires, Supernatural, Horror, Gothic

R. Alex Jenkins

It just goes to show how misinformed preconceptions can negatively impact reading enjoyment. This book is quite wonderful! It's not archaic, formulaic or dull at all. A book released in 1897 - how is that even possible?

Best of all, it's available online for next to nothing or free as a digital read!

I barely thought it was worth reading! Wooden stakes, garlic and crucifixes, fangs, castles and bats, coffins, vampires and bloodshot eyes, a cast including Nosferatu, Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. Totally ridiculous cliches that won't go down well at all. Wrong! Dracula is well designed and carefully planned out, but also an easy-to-read romp at times in its fun, chilling, quaint, informative and surprisingly entertaining manner of swapping letters and journal entries between characters. There's a sense of impending doom because of forces beyond our control while being herded like cattle to the slaughter by carefully manipulative powers that make no believable sense.

Open dialogue was a problem between the upper classes at the end of the 19th century due to excessive decorum and a fear of giving offence. Constitutions were really delicate too. There were no telephone calls, everything was officially communicated by post or telegram, with correspondence therefore being mislaid, lost or misunderstood. Everyone tries to protect the feelings of others and do the right thing to retain social status, when a bit more openness would have deflected the impending doom through communicative common sense. But that's just the way it was back then. Van Helsing is conservative and crusty, or perhaps Bram Stoker was for reading too much Thomas Hardy? Or maybe Victorian formalities are to blame for allowing a vampire menace to run riot unchecked for so long in any sort of society.

Even though I've given this top marks for readability, entertainment and for exceeding my expectations plus 10, there is a section of the book that troubled me. Women are taken out of the equation and given a back seat due to a chauvinist attitude of being too frail and therefore needing protection. This leads to unnecessary plot holes or inexplicable scenarios that just wouldn't happen, but even so, for an 1897 novel it's remarkable.

I don't know why I thought Dracula would be silly and camp with a weak and obvious plot when it's actually quite complex? That's the movies for you, establishing a premise of cheesy horror instead of intricate ideas and concepts meticulously planned by the author. It's much better than expected and even better than Frankenstein by Mary Shelley! The reason this work of art is still phenomenal today is because of how good the original book was, not because of over-dramatization hundreds of years later. However, whereas Frankenstein is sometimes viewed as bumbling and comedic, Dracula retains its class and cool even today, conceptualised by syphoning of blood alongside a rational fear of agonising death and then, maybe, immortality as an unexpected reward - a fate that appeals to many of us - an endless life entrenched in dark powers, manipulative evil and otherworldly perceptions.

Dracula is a really good read that gets better as it progresses, still relevant centuries later for experienced readers and younger converts alike. You can also profess to being a 'true' horror fan if you read it, as you absolutely should!

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