Review: Dracula

It is the eve of St. George’s Day. Do you not know that to-night, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?

You all know the story, yes? A Count dressed all in black, an undead creature of the night, drinker of blood, vulnerable to garlic and a stake through the heart, all that? Well, here’s where it all came from, at least in the public consciousness, all of the common vampire tropes in one (long) book.

You can tell that this is older book–first published in 1897. It’s somewhat slower and rather more verbose than most books published more recently, but it does have a certain elegance to it that rather fits the subject matter. Much like the titular Count Dracula and his castle, this feels like something from an older, darker, and more regal time.

One interesting thing is the format. The entire story is told as a series of journal entries and letters from the points of view of each of the main characters. We later learn that such entries exist in universe and, once they all get together to fight back against Dracula, they actually each copy and read all of these notes and compile them into what would become the book we’re reading. It’s an interesting style–one that I don’t expect would always work, but does in this case.

I admit that much of my interest in this book actually comes from reading The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. In that world, there are multiple species/courts of vampires, of which Dracula (and his ilk) are one (the Black Court). It’s therefore especially fascinating to see how Renfield is described. An at times mad man with the most curious affliction:

I shall have to invent a new classification for him, and call him a zoophagous (life-eating) maniac; what he desires is to absorb as many lives as he can, and he has laid himself out to achieve it in a cumulative way. He gave many flies to one spider and many spiders to one bird, and then wanted a cat to eat the many birds. What would have been his later steps? It would almost be worthwhile to complete the experiment.

Not exactly as they are in the Dresden files. Even more horrifying, truth be told.

On top of that, I hadn’t realized how much ABRAHAM VAN HELSING, M.D., D.PH., D.LIT., ETC., ETC. figured into the book. Another character who shows up in story after story, and here’s the origin. Fascinating, if poorly explained in this book where exactly all of his knowledge comes from.

Overall, it’s a dense read and a bit of a struggle to get through at times, but certainly fascinating.