It’s Gothic, intricate, romantic, tragic, fun and surprising. I haven’t read Bram Stoker‘s original Dracula in about 20 years and most of the details I’d either forgotten or had been smudged, smeared, and overwritten by a lifetime of modern vampire stories and myths.
Dracula is set in the late 19th century and is presented through a series of letters, memos and recordings between numerous characters who, through no fault of their own, become entangled in Dracula’s plot to move away from his rapidly dwindling (and more “vampire-aware”) food supply in Romania to the hip and crowded urban life of London.
Stoker’s mythology around vampires had a few surprises (to me, at least … apologies in advance if any of these are common knowledge to Stephanie Meyer lovers …). Vampires only lose their powers during the day. They don’t burn up or anything in the daylight, they just can’t morph into animals, use superhuman strength, etc. Vampires can’t turn into anything fancy when they’re over water: which was a convenient plot point forcing Stoker to move Dracula to and from London via boat. Also, Stoker describes Dracula as having a long thin moustache, so I can’t help imagining a fu manchu.
Professor Abraham Van Helsing leads a small group of men battling the evil blood-sucking plague from mainland Europe and comes across as a Victorian age vampire-fighting Yoda. Stoker may have been writing Van Helsing’s backward-talking soliloquies to be delivered with a Danish accent, but perhaps the Stoker estate should have a chat with Lucasfilms …
Jonathan Harker travels to Eastern Europe to tidy up the estate of Count Dracula in preparation for his move. Harker’s wife Mina is a central figure throughout the book — initially only as the target of Jonathan’s letters from Transylvania, and eventually as a key figure in the hunt for the Count. Her passion and love for hubby Jonathan is both melodramatic and touching. One can’t help but feel a very Victorian-England vibe in their relationship.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Stoker original. He does a masterful job connecting the plot dots through diaries and correspondence. Even by today’s standards, I find his approach very fresh. The first quarter of the story takes place in Romania and Dracula’s castle, and Stoker is at his best in his exposition of place and in setting the weighty and Gothic tone of Dracula in his environs. The image of the Count crawling down the outer walls of his castle, while Jonathan Harker watches from above, is burned into my mind.