Thursday, 5 November 2009

Abandoned Books - Dracula: The Un-dead by Dacre Stoker & Ian Holt

I've never considered doing a review of a book I decided not to finish but then I saw this post by Andrew Wheeler and realized it can work.

One of my co-workers who's read a lot of vampire books read Dracula: The Un-dead and recommended it to me with the proviso that the ending was a little weak but the book itself was interesting. So I started it.

I loved the first quarter of the novel. The book takes place 25 years after the events of Dracula, and a new enemy vampire, Countess Bathory. The first section focuses on two characters, Dr. Jack Seward who still hunts vampires though that has cost him his family, his money and his practice and Quincey Harker, son of Jonathan and Mina, who wants to be an actor against his father's wishes. The book mixes these new storylines with flashbacks to the Dracula hunt and how the heroes met (which isn't in the original and so rather intriguing).

So far, so good. There's even an inspector who thinks current happenings will lead him to Jack the Ripper so his failed career can be saved. But all those great things seem to fall apart for me around the halfway mark.

From here on there be spoilers, so if you'll be avoiding the rest of this post I will say one last thing. If you want to read the book, and enjoy it, I suggest NOT reading Dracula first. Around the halfway mark the book starts drawing more heavily on Dracula, and the inconsistencies here were what have prevented me from reading on.

*** Spoiler Alert ***

I haven't seen Francis Ford Coppola's movie adaptation of Dracula since university, but I strongly suspect the authors pulled more from that then they did the original novel. In Dracula the Un-dead Mina calls Dracula her 'dark prince' and purportedly still loves him. Now, unless I missed something in the novel (and I went back to check) there's no such emotion in the book. Jonathan, in this continuation, feels overshadowed by Dracula as Mina's lover, feeling that he can never satisfy her.

Here's a rather badly taped clip from the move from the Dracula/Mina love scene.

It's a very sensual scene where Mina asks to join him in his life and consents to become a vampire.

Now, here's that same scene from the book. We've previously been told that Mina's had trouble sleeping the past few nights and that she's seen mist entering her room, but that she remembers nothing after that.

This scene is in the form of Dr. Seward's diary and is the only account we are given. He and Van Helsing have been warned that Mina's already been visited by Dracula in the past and her blood drained. They rush to the room she is sharing with her husband and see the following. Jonathan is on the bed, flushed and breathing heavily as though in a stupor.

"Kneeling on the near edge of the bed facing outwards was the white-clad figure of his wife. By her side stood a tall, thin man, clad in black. His face was turned from us, but the instant we saw it we all recognized the Count - in every way, even to the scar on his forehead. With his left hand he held both Mrs. Harker's hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension; his right hand ripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. Her white nightdress was smeared with blood ... The attitude of the two had a terrible resemblance to a child forcing a kitten's nose into a sauce of milk to compel it to drink."

When he sees the intruders he throws Mina on the bed and goes to attack but is stopped by a Host wafer, held by Van Helsing.

The description of Mina after this is as follows:

"Her eyes were mad with terror. Then she put before her face her poor crushed hands, which bore on their whiteness the red mark of the Count's terrible grip, and from behind them came a low desolate wail which made the terrible scream seem only the quick expression of an endless grief." *

Not really the reaction of a woman in love. Dracula is a horror novel. There is no romance attributed to the vampire. Mina mentions later that Dracula made her drink his blood as a form of revenge, knowing he'd then be able to compel her to act for him. She's convinced she's damned because of it and contemplates suicide at one point. That Dracula: the Un-dead, as a continuation of Dracula, doesn't seem to understand this is rather bizarre. The point where I stopped reading is when Mina decides she truly loved Dracula more than Jonathan (there's a rewritten ending to Dracula where Mina picks up a gun and has to decide between her two loves and chooses Jonathan, something she now regrets - this scene, and consequently this choice, is not in Dracula. Nor, given the religious underpinings of the novel where Dracula is equated with the devil, would it be.).

At the conclusion of Dracula, Van Helsing, 7 years after the events of the book exclaims during a meeting with the Harker family, "This boy (Quincey Harker) will some day know what a brave and gallant woman his mother is."

Well, the Quincey Harker of Dracula: the Un-dead certainly has a different take. He learns of their past (which was hidden from him) and determines that his mothers infidelity with Dracula is what ruined his father and caused all the grief in his family. A sorry end for a character who was portrayed as a strong woman in the original. This sort of reminds me of how people blame rape victims for being attacked. In the original novel Mina did not ask to have her blood drained and she certainly had no love for Dracula. There was no ambiguity in her mind as to whether or not the vampire ought to be killed.

Anyway, back to the review. If you've never read Dracula than none of this is important. The writing of Dracula: the Undead is good and the story was interesting. I'd be interested in hearing thoughts from those who finished the book.

* I'm quoting from the Wordsworth Classics Unabridged 1993 edition of Dracula.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I didn't like the portrayal of
Mina either.

The fact that this book is being called the official sequel is driving me insane.

Its just too different from Bram Stoker's book.