by Bram Stoker
Genre: Classic, horror, fiction
Bram Stoker’s classic vampire story has haunted and disturbed the modern imagination for a hundred years. Blood, information, and hypnotic energy circulate furiously among the characters until the tale reaches its violent climax.
This is the second book I’ve completed for my Thriller Month. It’s a classic that has aged very well, which is a wonderful surprise. Classics sometimes lose some of the original spark due to antiquated language, different approaches to narration, and ideas that are far too familiar to readers. None of this happens in Dracula.
It is a gripping story with hair-raising moments. The way it is structured only enhances the experience – we follow various characters through their diary entries, so the first person narration easily makes us slip into the minds of our characters beset by ancient evil. We know about vampires but our first poor protagonist, Jonathan Harker, is in for a nasty surprise. He is still level-headed enough to form plans in order to survive, but we can feel his horror as he puts together the pieces about his host’s true nature.
We are in for an even darker tale with Lucy Westerna and Mina Murray. The two friends are unaware that something dark has landed on English soil near their town. Readers know about the strange events through the diary entries of Dr. Seward, a former suitor of Lucy’s. He himself is occupied with a patient, Mr. Renfield, who has a strange fascination with consuming life – whether it is flies, spiders, or birds. It is no wonder Renfield is easy prey for Count Dracula. No one even suspects it until it is too late.
It is Lucy’s story that reveals the evil creature amid the unsuspecting populace and its evil workings on his prey and unites others into a true vampire-hunting group. These chapters are some of the most horrifying. You can feel the despair of the brave men fighting for her life when they don’t yet know what precisely is going on. Her own confusion and dread is contrasted with the supernatural changes coming over her. The inclusion of Professor Van Helsing propels her story forward at a fast pace.
Van Helsing is one of the coolest characters ever and certainly my favourite in the book. He’s just so competent, decisive, yet still kind and generous to not lose his humanity and appeal. The second favourite character would be Mina. She’s Jonathan Harker’s fiancée and the one who transcribes his journals for the Professor, revealing the connection between Lucy’s fate and the terrible ordeal of Jonathan. But ultimately, it is Van Helsing who knows to keep an open mind and where to look for clues and solutions. The characters have to work hard to get answers, and their cooperation is all the more admirable when they are beset by doubts. They are sceptics, rational people, and vampires are far from anything science can explain. This is what makes this book so fascinating and rewarding.
The story preys on our subconscious fears and that of the characters; their confusion, horror, dread, and even despair fuel our own emotional investment in the story. We may know about vampires, but we are sucked into the dawning realisation about the scope of Dracula’s plan, about the dire state of affairs. This book puts vampires firmly back into creatures-to-dread category. The only thing that could be better is the ending part of the story. Somehow the tension is lost the further away from Dracula they are. Dracula is only at his scariest when he’s up and about; when he is not slumbering, you might have a silent desire for a cross or two near your bed. Better be safe than sorry. 😀