… this book, which I really wanted to like.
I really wanted to like it because I have such wonderfully terrifying memories of the first time I read the original Dracula. I remember waking in a cold sweat from a dream where I was in a castle tower, looking over an icy valley filled with trees coloured silver by the moonlight, and paralysed by the sure and certain knowledge that something was coming for me. I remember putting the book away for several weeks, hiding it under a pile of sweaters in the back of the cupboard – because, as we all know, just as vampires cannot cross running water, they also cannot climb out from under knitwear.
I knew the authors had pulled together threads about Jack the Ripper, Elizabeth Bathory, and how the relationships between the original bunch of vampire hunters might play out over the years – the story is set 25 years after Dracula’s demise. I knew they used Stoker’s notes from the original manuscript – stuff that got left out. The problem with using the stuff the author left out originally is that sometimes, there are good reasons why it got left out in the first place.
Umberto Eco’s Brother William of Baskerville says in The Name of the Rose – and I paraphrase here, for I cannot find the exact page number – “Sometimes wisdom lies in knowing what we can do and refraining from doing it.”
This applies to a lot of things in life: knowing that lycra can stretch very, very far, but wisdom lies in refraining from wearing it in public, for it is an unforgiving fabric. Similarly, only Liz Hurley and Elle McPherson are allowed to wear white skinny jeans.
But I digress. What Dracula The Un-Dead gives is a pastiche … we have lesbian vampire rape, a battle on a moving train that references Blade II, Speed and any number of other films, things that constantly feel borrowed from Coppola’s 1992 film version of Dracula, and bits and pieces that seem to have more than a passing acquaintance with the inimitable Mr Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula. And it just doesn’t stand up very well. The prose is so purple that my eyes have changed from green to lavender, and there are repetitions of things the reader already knows, which makes me venture to suggest that if your book isn’t remaining in a reader’s mind and you think you need to remind them about ‘stuff’, then there is a deeper problem. The constant use of the phrase ‘the brave band of heroes’ made me throw the book against the wall more than once.
Dracula is redeemed (he was just misunderstood); Van Helsing turns into a vampire (but not for very long); Bathory is, in fact, Jack the Ripper; everybody does indeed Love Lucy; Mina still harbours the hots for Prince Vlad; and Quincey Harker (Mina’s son) is one of the most unsympathetic, whiney characters to grace the page. Oh, and the Titanic turns up too.
In its favour, the book has an unrelenting pace and an inventiveness that will carry some readers through – I know myself to be a harsh judge. Become a writer and it will ruin you as a reader.
And I am sad to be so negative about this book, but … it’s … annoying. It has potential and has not fulfilled it … it reads like a B-grade movie. Too much slash, not enough dash. 🙁