A few years ago, I stumbled across the authorized sequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula, Dracula the Un-Dead that was co-written by Bram's great grandnephew Dacre Stoker. It took place about two decades after the original novel and followed the original Crew of Light as they crossed paths again with Count Dracula and fought a second vampire, Elizabeth Báthory. It was an enjoyable read, based partly on Bram's original notes for both Dracula and a possible sequel, partly on historical records, and partly on Dacre's own imagination. I recommend it heartily, if for nothing else than the subplot following Detective Cotford of Scotland Yard, a disgraced inspector who helped work the original Jack the Ripper murders (and a character Bram had originally intended for Dracula but apparently dropped in the drafting stage), as he investigates a series of murders he fears indicates the Ripper's return. It was a lot of fun, and I could not put it down, but it was not by any means a perfect book. As much as I enjoyed it and held hope for a second sequel, it didn't really feel a true sequel to Dracula. Perhaps it was the lack of the epistolary form, but it feels like more of a sequel to Coppola's film adaptation of the novel more than of the novel itself.
Dracul, however, is an entirely different story. Not only is it a prequel to Dracula completely unrelated to Dacre's previous sequel, it is so much more than an enjoyable read: It truly feels like part of the "canon" of Dracula. Based largely on the Stoker family's documented history and again on Bram's journals and notes for the original novel, Dacre and Barker expertly craft a decades-long mystery around the Stoker family.
|Bram Stoker, aged 25, roughly the |
age he is during the events of the novel
And it is.
But it is also a chronological sequel to Bram's novel.* The Dracula who appears within the pages of this new novel is very clearly the Dracula from Bram's original text. He is decidedly not the Dracula from Coppola's film: there is nothing remotely sympathetic in this iteration. This is the first thing I enjoyed about this book. I grow weary of overly romanticized vampires that are more clones of Anne Rice's Lestat** than Stoker's Dracula.
The romantic vampire has been done to death (pardon the pun). I want a vampire that truly strike's fear in the heart, and the novel's Dracula does exactly that. In Dacre and Barker's hands the Count
I also enjoy the blend of first-person epistolary and third person omniscient narrators. You might not think such a switching of narrators would work, but it does so exceedingly well. And each of the epistolary narrators (Bram, Thornley, and Matilda Stoker) has his or her own distinctive voice. The editing here is also superb: Each narrator's section ends on a perfect cliffhanger, and the next section inevitably gives the reader important information relevant to the previous section before resolving the dilemma. The narrators move like a well choreographed waltz: each weaving in and out of each other as it progresses across the floor, while from above, the whole appears as organized and fluid as a well-oiled machine.
In short, Dracula the Un-Dead was an enjoyable romp through what might have happened after Dracula ended and young Quincey Harker grew up, and I do recommend you read it, but it was never going to be on par with the original novel. Dracul, however, is not only a worthy precursor to Bram Stoker's classic; it is itself an expert piece of narrative work, smoothly weaving threads of truth and fiction into one seamless cloth. When I first received my review copy, I expected to enjoy the book as a quick summer read, but I never expected to find myself as intrigued by it intellectually as I did. Dacre and Barker's Dracul is so much more than just a great sequel to a classic literary masterpiece. It is itself a work of fiction worthy of its own scholarly study.
The book is released on October 2, 2018, giving you just enough enough time to read it before Halloween. Do that. You will not be sorry.
|J. D. Barker|
*Read the original Author's Note to Dracula; it provides a surprising justification for the prequel focusing on the Stokers.
**Don't get me wrong, I love Rice's Interview with a Vampire, and Lestat is perfectly drawn for the role he plays in his own series. So perfect, in fact, that I find most attempts sympathetic, romantic vampires merely imperfect clones of Lestat, and thus superfluous.