Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Dracula The Undead Dracula The Undead
by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt
Harper Collins

Supplied for review by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten

Writing a review of Dracula: the un-dead is not simple as this book cannot be judged as a standalone volume. Dracula: the un-dead is the official sequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (with the former being written by a great nephew of the author of the latter), which spawned its own sub-genre of novels, films and vampire lore, and needs to be judged in that light too.

The novel itself

Dracula: the un-dead is Dacre Stoker’s and Ian Holt’s first book. In the author acknowledgements they freely admit their love of the whole Dracula phenomenon, particularly the movies. The result is a very cinematic novel, at home in the world of 1912 London and Paris, with richly described landscapes through which the action happens. Unfortunately, the characters have been under-drawn and in most cases boarding on caricature and cliché, and there was a prodigious number of them (characters, not cases); bit players who added little if anything to the development of the story.

If I was to leave the review here, I would say that the book was an interesting footnote to the whole milieu of Dracula. A competently written book, neither good nor bad, a pleasant enough little read if suffering a bit from gratuitous name dropping.

But there is more…

As official sequel

Two year’s ago I read Dracula, for which this is the official sequel, and so I had expectations as to the style and content of this book. I was greatly disappointed. Dracula was written in the form of letters, diary entries, newspaper reports and the like, making the horror much more effective as the diarist and letter writers struggled to express what they had seen. Unfortunately, the authors of Dracula: the un-dead chose to reveal their story in the traditional novel format and at the same time to correct errors(!) in vampire lore that existed in the original. In short these novelists believed Hollywood had got the vampire tradition right, Bram Stoker had it wrong, and it was their job in the sequel to correct Bram’s mistakes. Incidentally, these mistakes included the year when the action in the original occurred.

As the story unfolded misunderstood and misrepresented, no longer Count but Prince, Dracula returns battling his nemesis and distant relative Elizabeth Bathory. Back stories and motives are supplied for all (bit players and central characters alike) – after all, why would Dracula and Bathory, two very popular fictional vampires be fighting, how and why did Mina and Jonathan Harker meet and so on – for no dramatic effect. For reasons I couldn’t fathom, historic events got woven in to improve the authenticity of the historicity of the novel, for example the first Paris-London flight and the maiden voyage of the kitchen sink, I mean, The Titanic.

The story in the novel was supposedly based on Bram Stoker’s own notes, suggesting Bram was contemplating a major change in direction from his original script; but then again this could be true in the same way that nylon is based on crude oil. If I were to start discussing author motives I would soon degenerate to a slanderous tone and may not know when to stop.

So while Dracula may or may not have been a literary masterpiece, as a work that almost singlehandedly spawned a whole sub-genre, its official sequel deserves to be better, much better, than this effort. If you enjoyed Bram Stoker’s Dracula avoid this book, otherwise expect a lot of heartache; for I wish I had.

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