Bram Stoker’s spinning in his grave…

November 9, 2011 at 9:01 pm (Literature)

It’s a funny thing with sequels – when you’ve read a book, you’ll probably be excited to learn that the story will be continued, especially if that story didn’t have a proper conclusion or left many questions unanswered. On the other hand, there’s always that shadow of doubt lingering behind you when you pick up a sequel to a book you love. When “Dracula – The Un-Dead” was released in 2009 (German edition), I stayed away from it and decided to wait for the cheaper paperback. Said paperback has been added to my collection recently and I can say one thing: It’s been a while since I’ve read a book with more than 500 pages within only a couple of days (3, actually). And yes, somehow it entertained me and somehow, it was fun. However, this doesn’t change the simple fact that the book is but one thing: incredibly bad. When reading, I had the impression that the authors – Dacre Stoker, a descendent of Bram Stoker, and self-proclaimd Dracula expert Ian Holt – collected numerous ideas they wanted to squeeze into the book – no matter how ridiculous, no matter whether those ideas were compatible. While I was reading this book, a picture started forming in my head – a picture of the authors brainstorming and thus producing one plotline after another. Actually, I think it might have been like this – before you read on, beware. There are massive SPOILERS ahead.

Stoker: Listen, dude, I’ve got an awesome idea – let’s put in Countess Bathory!

Holt (excited): Great! No one will be expecting that! And we could squeeze in some lesbian scenes – brilliant!

Stoker (agitated): And… and… and… oh yes, I know, I know, we’ll continue the love story as presented in Coppola’s movie and in the afterword, we’ll simply claim that the original book supports that love story. We’ll find some paragraph that we can cite, I’m pretty sure.

Holt: That’s brilliant! I’ve got an idea as well… but it would be a little risky…

Stoker: Come on, spit it out (jumps up and down on his seat)

Holt: What would you think of having your uncle Bram as a character, trying to bring “Dracula” to the big stage? Quincey could meet him and because he’s such a smart guy he’ll wonder why the main characters are named after his parents.

Stoker: Aaaaaaah, genius! (nearly falls from his seat but can prevent it – barely). You know what’d be cool, too?

Holt: Let’s see… we could produce a charismatic minor character, totally enigmatic and of Romanian origin, and…

Stoker: …. he’s actually Dracula!

Holt: Exactly! No one will be expecting this. That’s gonna be one cool surprise – imagine our readers finding out who Basarab really is, they won’t notice that beforehand, I’m sure. You know what would be even cooler? Quincey finding out that Dracula is his dad – kind of a Darth Vader-moment.

Stoker (now hyperventilating):  I just had an inspiration!

Holt (tense): Let’s hear it!

Stoker (takes a deep breath): Well… we’ll set the story 25 years after the original book but we’ll move the beginning of uncle Bram’s story to the year 1888. That way, we could include Jack the Ripper plus an aging inspector who’s still angry that he didn’t catch the Ripper and who thinks Van Helsing is the Ripper…

Holt (doubtful): Van Helsing is Jack the Ripper?

Stoker: Let me finish, will you? Of course not – that’s just an idea our inspector has but of course, he’s totally wrong and the real Ripper is…

Holt (enlightened): … Countess Bathory!

Stoker: Bingo! And that gives us the premise to explain to our readers that Dracula is actually one of the good guys and that he’s been travelling to London in the original novel simply because he needed to stop the Countess.

Holt: You definitely inherited your uncle’s talent, boy – I’m a Dracula expert, I should know! Boy, this will be the greatest novel of all time! There might be one or two inconsistencies with the original novel but we’ll explain them away – we found Bram’s notes and wanted to satisfy both the book- and the film-lovers. People out there will buy any rubbish, they’ll buy this as well (has dollar signs in his eyes).

These absurd plotlines are completed by characters that are hardly recognizable. Ok – I’ll give Stoker/Holt this much: The changes in Jonathan and Mina Harker, in Jack Seward and in Arthur Holmwood are quite believable, given the trauma they’ve been through. But why the authors decided to change a figure of pure evil into a tragic anti-hero is beyond me. The lengthy afterword came across especially cheeky – various changes to the original story are justified with a nod to some notes the two guys read and/or with a different interpretation of a certain scene, like Dracula’s death. Because he’s not staked but stabbed in the heart, Stoker must have intended a sequel – that’s their explanation. Brilliant, isn’t it?

Equally brilliant: The real villain this time around is Countess Bathory who can fly and thus move from London to Paris and vice versa pretty quickly but who, when seeing the need to go to Whitby for the lame showdown, chooses a coach. Yes. A coach. With horses. And then she’s angry because it takes her so long. Give me a break.

I could go on and on and on about this book but I think I’ve put down the most important things. The only reason why this book has entertained me is my soft spot for trash. One thing before I finish: The German translation is in parts plain horrible – Van Helsing turns into Yoda, some phrases are used incorrectly etc. But with a book of this… uhm… quality, it really doesn’t matter.

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