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Book Review: Dracula: the Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker & Ian Holt

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Yes, you read the title right. Someone named ‘Stoker’ wrote a book titled Dracula. No, it’s not the same Stoker as Bram, but close: it’s his great grand-nephew. And yes, it is the same Dracula, but 25 years later.

Like an old pair of pants you slip back on, the book seems oddly familiar and yet strangely different at the same time (provided you still fit in them). The characters are all back, but the 25 years between the last time we saw them and this reconnection have changed them, almost beyond recognition. Van Helsing, the leader of the intrepid band that chased after Dracula 25 years ago is old and dying; Jonathan and Mina Harker are unhappily married with a son who has grown up without knowing of his parents’ past; Arthur Holmwood, Lucy’s fiancé, is now full of anger and bitterness over his loss; his close friend, Dr. Jack Seward, is a drug addict and has lost both his practice and the respect of his peers.

It’s a little distressing to see the protagonists from the classic Bram Stoker Dracula fall from such heroic heights to such conditions. But it’s only natural that the horrific adventures the group went through 25 years earlier left an indelible impression on each of them, affecting them to the point that they are almost unrecognizable. These changes become all the more logical as one works one’s way through the book, which traces the path each one walked in the last 25 years. As understanding dawns, so does a sad acceptance that even the bravest of heroes, who willingly faced evil and death in the name of God and goodness, can sink into a pit of despair.

It’s quite realistic, scarily so, which makes Dracula: The Un-Dead a sequel worthy of the original. The story is a page-turner; the details are gripping; the horror, well, it’s horrifying. It’s a great book to read – albeit an imperfect one.

The original Dracula was written by Bram Stoker and first published in 1897. In (very) short, it tells the story of a band of heroes traveling to Eastern Europe to pursue the evil known as Dracula. Just this month, on October 13th to be exact (too bad it wasn’t a Friday), the sequel, Dracula: the un-dead was published. Written by the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker (Dacre Stoker), the book finds our intrepid band of heroes 25 years later. This book is brilliantly written and a page-turner.

So why was I so uncomfortable reading this book?

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every page of it. The story was spellbinding, so much so that I am currently severely lacking sleep (you try putting this book down!) But there was something that bothered me the instant I cracked it open and was struck by the difference in style between the original and the sequel. After some reflection and a lot of coffee, I have come to realise that this discomfort has a lot to do with the individualistic point of view taken in the sequel, when the original developed the individuality of the characters while always retaining its focus on the group.

In the original, the story is much more intertwined; the characters’ thoughts are less self-centred, and the style focuses on the advancement of groups of people – wife and husband, two rivals, two friends, a student and his mentor – rather than on the advancement of each individual. Each character’s individuality is explored in relation to the others’ as well as in relation to the story. The story is clearly plot-driven.

In the sequel, the story is more focused on each individual rather than on the group; the story is character-driven. While in the original, each character’s individuality stood out, they were still part of a cohesive whole who managed to battle Dracula; the sequel is written in a way that enhances each characters’ individuality.

Another big difference is the level to which each Stoker horrifies their readers. Bram implied a lot, while Dacre describes it all. Bram hints at many things, while Dacre says them straight out. Bram poetically invokes many other things, while Dacre, in true 21st century style, not only says them, but embellishes.

Speaking of which, for the faint of heart: beware. Even if you read Bram Stoker’s original tale, it’s nothing compared to this one. On the plus side, all you students and gore-loving people who might have been slightly disappointed at the relative tameness of the original Dracula will be more than satisfied with the sequel. The descriptions are pretty horrific and stomach-churning.

Out in time for Halloween, this is the perfect book to read while waiting for children to come to your door trick-or-treating. Be warned; by the end of the evening, you might find yourself discriminating, either for or against, any child dressed as a vampire.

If it’s for or against is for you to find out.

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About Sahar

  • Della Perkins

    An amazing sequal cram packed full of adventure and bloodlust horror. with a different twist to the amazing dark prince from the ariginal horror clasic Bram Stokers Dracula. to Dracula fans this is one you can not put down for theirs a bloodcurtling adventure around the next corner. A great big thanks to Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt the genusees that put the book together. Cant wait for the next.

  • http://waftingcurtains.wordpress.com Chelsea Doyle

    This sounds like a fascinating book, both in concept and in execution. I really want to try this out, and I’m kind of excited it was written by another Stoker! I will miss the subtle ways of the original, but I’m not surprised they went with the more in your face gore. Great review Sahar!

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    Della: I also think there is going to be a next – they left the ending wide open for that! I just hope they take their time writing it so that it’s also as amazing as the first two.

    Chelsea: Thank you! I wasn’t surprised with the more in your face gore either – it was just a little shocking because I had just finished rereading the classic. I wonder if they are going to remake the classic into a movie and then make the sequel into one, too. It definitely would look amazing on the big screen. Let me know what you think when you do read it :)

  • NYJ

    The book is an abomination that spits all over the original. Tripped out in forced, pointless subplots, mind-numbingly cliched “twists,” stunningly bad dialogue, torture porn and homophobia, the “sequel” takes the events, characters and tone of Stoker’s (the real one) Dracula and “improves” them by turning it all into formulaic trash that blatantly contradicts the very events and tenets that made the book and it’s characters classic. Obviously designed to appeal to the Anne Rice/ Twilight crowd rather than fans of the original, as nearly all the events of the original are tossed out as “inaccurate.” That’s right, the classic that created the vampire archetype hasn’t been out of print in over a century is completely wrong, and THIS is the “real” story. Please. Dacre Stoker was obviously recruited for name recognition only as I doubt this garbage would’ve been published otherwise.

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    NYJ thank you for your comment; I’m sad you don’t like this book, and I do understand why. Like I mentioned in the review, it was pretty shocking in its goriness – but do you really think it was only a publicity stunt to make some money of the Twilight-inspired vampire obsession, and not something inspired by Bram Stoker’s own notes?

  • Alejandra

    Hey!! I´m on page 315 and I started reading it yesterday, I agree you literally cant put it down. I can´t really say anything yet because I´m not finished with the book, but I just wanted t say that I strongly disagree with NYJ, the book is not like twilight at all. I read all 4 of them, and the writing style and the concept of ¨vampire¨ of both re comepletly different. I hated twilight, I love the original Dracula, and so far this book is pretty good.
    By the way, great review!

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    Hey Alejandra! Glad you like the book, and glad you like the review :) I agree – you can’t compare Twilight to Dracula. Quite honestly, just the writing style put Dracula leagues and leagues above Twilight. Let me know what you think when you finish the book – and DON’T PEEK AT THE ENDING!!!!

  • Alejandra

    Finished the book last week. Amazing! It was great, but I’m sad about finishing it. I’ll probably re-read it..until a new one comes out. I sure hope it does. Till’ next Dracula!!

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    I’m glad you liked it Alejandra! And yes, ’til next Dracula :)

  • Yautja

    I’ll avoid the conjecture about whether or not Dacre was brought in to cash on the Twilight craze and talk about the book itself.

    Here’s what I liked:
    -It’s a Dracula sequel written by a Stoker, so it automatically has *some* credit to it.
    -I can appreciate what Stoker and Holt tried to do with showing what happened to the characters 25 years later, altering the original story as the discrepancies were “edits” by Bram Stoker, and trying to breathe new life into the saga
    -I will agree that it is a page-turner. I read the last 150-200 pages in 1 sitting.

    Here’s what I didn’t like:
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    (WARNING DISLIKES 6-9 HAVE **MASSIVE** SPOILERS AHOY!) Hence the dots to give you time to look away.
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    1) The prose isn’t very good, simply put. It’s not “bad,” per se, but it feels like it was a first draft that was published without going through any rewrites, edits, or tweaking of the dialogue, prose, or story structure. The author(s) don’t show a mastery of language by what they’re putting on the page.

    2) The concept of tying Elizabeth Bathory into the Dracula folds is nothing new…Castlevania did that on the Sega Genesis in 1994. Her addition seems like a lazy one. The narrative alludes to Drac’s brother Radu also being a vampire. Why not use him, instead? Even if he was the same EXACT character as Bathory (asides from the gender-swap), I would have at least given Stoker and Holt points for effort.

    3) Just as well, she’s too one-sided of a character, as in “yargh! I am so evil, man has punished me, so I will set the world on fire!” yadda yadda Doctor Doom-stuff. Never mind the fact that the historical Bathory was a butcher and a sadist, which precludes her (in my opinion) of being someone that I’m automatically willing to try to understand her opinion on. If she’d been written as a misunderstood, tragic figure (and slightly less bloodthirsty one), I would have perhaps found the conflict more interesting. Or maybe if she’d been kept a mystery as opposed to being alluded to right away on page 7.

    4) It’s too gory. Gore does not equal scary or chilling. Gore is repulsive. Which one were the authors going for? The stair sequence with the detective in Psycho is a lot more chilling and memorable than anything Jason Voorhees could have accomplished in the Friday the 13th movies. What you DON’T see is always worse than what you do.

    5) I figured out who Basarab was less than 2 pages after we’re introduced to him. It’s not really that hard or well-constructed of a disguise. I also found out his connection to Quincey the moment they mentioned that Mina had stayed at Whitby with Dracula for a time.

    6) Does EVERYBODY have to die in this book? Let’s count…Arthur, Van Helsing, Seward (and early on, too), Cotford, Dracula, Bathory. Pretty much everybody except for Quincey, and the cop who works under Cotford, bites the big one. It doesn’t help all the characters are pretty much wrecked in terms of likeability before they die. Van Helsing’s insane, Seward’s a drug-addict, Arthur is looking for his own release on life. It gets to be pretty heavy, downtrodden reading at times.

    7) I don’t understand Dracula’s process of logic. He faked his death and went about chasing Bathory for 25 years, but didn’t try to get any help? I would think if he came back to Mina earlier on and tried to get her to leave with him, *that* would have been a more interesting conflict. Think about it: Mina has a husband and young son and she’s being tempted by Dracula again. It would let Jonathan’s character “breathe” a little bit more as opposed to him turning into a drunk and whore-mongerer. But alas…

    8) The authors altered too much of the original book to mesh it into both actual history and what they felt worked for the story. It shifts the action of the original book from 1897 to 1888 to tie into the Jack the Ripper murders. Again, that’s not very original and doesn’t require any stretch of the imagination. Also, the end of the story mentions Quincey setting sail on the Titanic. (This last point alone made the book end on an automatic low-note for me, and I put the book on my shelf in semi-disgust at yet another “easy” way of resolving an element of the story) This is just one step from the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, and setting Dracula in every major event that comes along through history. It’s just too much. The story of Dracula was a narrative including a small band of people, not major historical events and places. In the same vein (no pun intended), it makes vampires vulnerable to sunlight. That’s an easy way out that started in 1922’s Nosferatu and it’s a cheap gimmick anymore. Twilight doesn’t even do that.

    9) Quincey doesn’t feel like the main character at all in the story. Mina does. So when we don’t really care for the person we spend most of the time with in the story, there’s a disconnect. The scenes with Mina were infinitely more interesting and felt more “real.” Quincey has no personality, other than the conflict with his father, which ends early and abruptly due to the latter’s death. And when it changes to the pursuit of revenge, he spends the entire time chasing after the WRONG person. Why does the main character know the absolute LEAST about what’s going on? Oh, and he abandons his mother at the end and doesn’t lift a finger to save his father. Jerk.

    I am in no waying saying the book is “bad,” but all in all, it doesn’t feel to me like what would actually happen in the years following the original “Dracula.” It feels like a “what-if,” and reads like it was written contemporarily as opposed to being timeless (as the original indubitably is).

  • someguy

    what happend to the main characters depresses me

  • Balthamus

    I find myself agreeing most heartily with Yautja and yet liking the book at the same time. Yautja spelled out everything that irratated me about it. Perhaps I just like reading about the character one last time, though I did not like the way they went with them. I can buy what happens with Holmwood and Seward, but not Jonathan and Mina. This felt like a piece of fan fiction, albeit better than average fan fiction.

  • Dracula( not to be confused with Vlad the Impaler)

    They totally got me all wrong, I went from badass count who had 3 wives( which I fed babies…or something) to being this anti hero hopeless romantic who’s going to save the world and is in love with the same woman I was trying to kill to hurt the Harker band. When did I ever seduce her? I shoulda stayed dead……

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    Yautja: Awesome reflections!!! You raised some great points, and it makes me want to reread the book. One thing that I do agree on is the level of gore, which was ten-fold that of the original Dracula.

    someguy: It seems to be the general sentiment, but then again, I find that it’s a reflection of reality, no? How many people did amazing things – and hunting down Dracula is an amazing thing! – only to come back and sink into darkness?

    Balthamus: I think you might have hit the nail on the head: it’s more like a great piece of fanfiction than anything else. I personally would love to see the notes Bram Stoker took while writing the original to see how much of this book was his idea.

    Dracula: I’m sorry you feel this way! Please do feel free to share who you really are with us. I think we’re curious to see how much of this book is true to your real self ;)

  • Rose

    I loved DRACULA (the original) and was looking forward to UNDEAD. Unfortunately, this is possibly the worst book I’ve ever read out of published, mainstream literature. Terrible dialogue, “surprises” that are incredibly predictable, plot holes you could drive the Titanic through (which I figured would make an appearance as soon as the date “1912” was posted), convoluted twists of logic, not to mention the illogical, open-ended finale. It was like watching a slow-motion train wreck. And I had the feeling Dacre Stoker didn’t care too much for Uncle Bram.

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    I’m sorry you didn’t like the book, Rose, especially since you liked the first one so much.

  • Wallsight

    Just finished reading the book and although I kinda liked it, I do tend to think that it is an insult to the classic novel Dracula was. Spoilers ahead!

    It annoyed me that the main characters have gone through so much a change the don’t even feel like the characters you know from Bram Stoker’s Dracula anymore. I understand that their life hasn’t changed for the better since their fight with Dracula, but was it absolutely necessary to make it impossible to like them? And why does everybody have to die? It’s not so much the fact that they die, it the way they die. Jack Seward, pretty much my favourite character from Dracula, dies within the first 50 PAGES (!!!) in a stupid way. I mean, come on, he sees two vampires, draws his sword and runs across the road screaming like a lunatick. Come on, he deserves better than that! The same can be said for Jonathan and especially Van Helsing. I just feel that Dacre Stoker didn’t show much respect for what his ancestor created – also visible in the way he portrays Bram Stoker: ugh.

    And wait a minute… Dracula’s the good guy? Ow, jees, how is that possible? It just feels stupid. Bathory’s a great character, but I would have either left Dracula out or make him the antagonist again. Also this book makes me dislike the first one. When I read it again, I just see the so called ‘mistakes’ that Dacre Stoker mentioned. The scenes on the Demeter, where you read about how the entire crew of the ship is slaughtered by a mysterious man, gave me chills when I read it the first time. Fantastic writing. But then I read Dracula The Un-Dead and all of a sudden the seen is stripped from its tension. I can only see the ‘pest’, the desease that killed these men and that ruins the fun for me. And that’s pretty much how I feel about the whole novel.

    I think Dracula The Un-dead is a mediocre book which gives me as a horrorfan certainly some satisfaction, but it lacks the quality of its predecessor and above all decreases my love for the first one. Therefore I wish I would never have read it.

  • someguy

    ^
    yah I’ve been having problems with that too

    the books dont sync up so i try to think of these two books in parallel continuities, but….

    Now everytime I think of the original i think (but according to the sequel this did not happen)

    and i dont support the mina/dracula romance in terms of the original story (I dont have a problem with adaptions)

    I just dont it. but it feels like everything I knew about the original is now wrong.

  • someguy

    what I meant to say was that everything I “liked” about the original is now wrong

  • EricH

    I haven’t read the book yet so I can’t comment on the details but from what I heard it isn’t “The Sequel” the die hard fans had hoped for, maybe deserved. But it is the offical sequel to Brams creation, hence that must count for something.

    I think we need to take the book for what it is which is entertainment. Forgive it for what it’s not, a true sequel to the classic. When I am finish writing my version of the sequel I will read Dacres version, but not before…

  • aiden

    I dont really see why its official sequel just because the stoker family endorsed it, the original is public domain.

  • http://saharsreviews.wordpress.com Sahar

    I think sequels, official or not, are always going to disappoint someone, quite unfortunately. And Aiden, you make a very interesting point. A ‘real’ official sequel would be either penned by the original author, or from notes taken by the original author, which apparently is what happened in this case.

  • mel

    ^
    i’ve seen the notes they used
    very little of what was in them is what the plot of this book is based on
    (and definately no indication of a romance between dracula and mina)

  • http://saharsreviews.wordpress.com Sahar

    Mel: interesting – that means that they really went far from the path Bram Stoker set, huh. Got anything else that might shock us?

  • mel

    I know thats sarcasm but for more info: you can see the notes yourself if you want (professor elizabeth miller just published them a year)
    just look up notes for dracula on amazon

  • http://saharsreviews.wordpress.com Sahar

    Mel: What’s sarcasm? If you are referring to my comment, I’m sorry it came out as sarcasm, I really didn’t mean it that way. I read it expecting it to be a solid reflection of what Bram Stoker would have wanted. And I am definitely hoping to have time to take a look at Professor Miller’s notes soon!

  • Marie

    Yeah, I haven’t gotten very far and I already hate it. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad as a stand-alone book but, as a sequel I’m rather disgusted. He just used his name (which he apparently doesn’t actually appreciate) to get some attention. I also don’t understand why he is so desperate to make the whole book so dated. He adds historical points for absolutely no reason except to appear as if he is knowledgeable. I can’t even get started on the fact that he basically ignores the book and seems to be making his sequel out of a combination of his own imagination and the movies. I see way too much of the Francis Ford Coppola movie in this book already and, I’m only on page 64. I’m sad I wasted money on this, he spits in the face of something that a lot of people, including myself, absolutely adore.

  • Charles Roy

    I read the original and I am reading the sequel. I want to tell the people that say that you can’t put it down, I don’t find that to be the case. I like so many others find the Un-Dead to be a big let down. I agree with Wallsight Dracula as the hero is STUPID. They didn’t have to make all the characters from the orginal pitiful and unlikeable. Yes 25years had passed so what took Bathroy so long to get pissed that Dracula threw her over for Mina,if that is why she was killing everyone.

    Minas’ character comes off very unlikeable especiality end the end when she dies and leaves her son to find for himself without anyone to tell him what is going on with his body and what will happen to him when he dies, according to her assetment he will become a vampire like his father. What was the point of bring God into it. I wonder did they read Bram Stokers book, he made no mention of a romance between Mina and Dracula. Mina in her diaries did not indicate that she had a romantic relationship with with Dracula and the way they presented it, I could only see that she was in lust with the vampire and she allowed that to come between her and her husband .

    Like Gone With The Wind some books should not have a sequel unless written by the orginal author. It was stated in the introduction that the was no evidence to say that Bram Stoker hads any intentions of writing a sequel. Hopfully Datce Stoker and Ian Holt will be satisfied with their 15 minutes of fame and not write another sequel to the sequel let a classic be a classic without tarnish.