It seems like they’re everywhere lately. They’ve abandoned their dusty coffins and gothic castles and entered the pages of glossy magazines, taken over our TVs, invaded our bookshelves and bedrooms, and even our freezers. There is no escape. Yes, I’m referring to the vampire, in all his blood-sucking, garlic-hating, seductive, supernatural and sparkling glory.
But this is no ordinary vampire. This is Dracula – the evil Count who has caught the imagination of so many, the Undead monster who sparked a craze, and the father of all modern vampire literature. In a sense, Dracula is the vampire myth.
But Dracula was by no means the first vampire. In fact, Stoker’s novel borrows heavily from earlier works and folklore, using and adapting some aspects and discarding others, just as later vampire stories have done. Indeed, if there is any ‘true vampire trait’ in the literature then it is this; their adaptability. Over the years vampires have morphed, been reinvigorated and reinvented to meet the needs of each new generation of readers and viewers. Each adaptation of the vampire story adds something a little different to the mix, building new layers into the pop culture mythology of the Undead.
Yet there is something about Dracula that stands out from all other vampire fiction, something in the cold, demonic hunger of the Count, in Stoker’s vivid descriptions and haunting imagery, in the heavy, sinister atmosphere that hangs from every page, the suspense of the chase, the bravery and determination of the characters, and the slow but inevitable horror of a monster that science cannot touch, who can invade our very thoughts and dreams. The power of the novel lies in its eerie, gothic settings, in the dark fixations of the Count, and in the deep, dangerous sexuality lurking always beneath the surface. This is vampire literature at its best.
Some readers may find the novel difficult in parts; the story moves between several settings, and switches between different characters’ diaries and letters, with other correspondences and the odd newspaper article thrown in. This gives the book an air of realism, almost like a 19th century Blair Witch Project, but it can also be a little jarring at points. Lucy’s childish musings on her various admirers are particularly irritating after the slow, haunting events in Transylvania. However, the narrative soon picks up again, and as the fog rolls into Whitby so the dark, gothic horror returns with chilling force. Past this point, the novel’s pacing and atmosphere is perfect, and readers will quickly see why Dracula has become the phenomenon that it is.
Fans of horror, gothic literature, Victorian novels, vampire fiction, and dark, suspense-filled thrillers will all find something to love in Dracula. Even those who loathe the modern vampire craze may find something deeply satisfying in the unapologetically evil nature of the Count. Dracula is one of the most powerful and influential horror stories ever told, and will haunt the reader long after the last page has been turned.
"In seeking a parallel to this weird, powerful, and horrorful story our mind reverts to such tales as The Mysteries of Udolpho, Frankenstein, The Fall of the House of Usher ... but Dracula is even more appalling in its gloomy fascination than any one of these" (Daily Mail, 1897 - the year Dracula was published)
"One of the most powerful horror tales ever written" (Malcolm Bradbury)