Bram Stoker's Dracula is one of those classics where everyone is familiar with the story, but many people assume they can survive without reading the actual book and simply scrape by with movie adaptations. This is simply not so, my friends. Dracula is a fantastic literary creation and to only be "vaguely" aware of the basic story is to cheat yourself out of a magnificent tale. If you're sick of sparkly vampires, then return to the granddaddy of them all... and he'll show you that real vampires are not covered in glitter, sensitive, or interested in redefining "vegetarian." They're devoid of souls and they are rather intent on killing/stealing your girlfriend.

This is my second reading of Dracula and it was even better than I remember. If you haven't yet had the pleasure, I'll do a very quick summary. The novel is told from several perspectives through a variety of means -- mostly diaries/journals with the occasional letter or telegram tossed in to ratchet up the suspense value. Vampires, beautiful women, blood, death, insanity! It's awesome.

Unlikely as it may sound, it all starts with a business trip. Jonathan Harker is an attorney who has traveled to Transylvania to assist some Count with an international real estate transaction. Sounds fairly boring, right? (Well, aside from the fact that in the late 1800s, any kind of big travel experience is major.) Of course, it's somewhat disconcerting how all these villagers keep crossing themselves when he explains where he's going or they try desperately to dissuade him. Huh. Weird. (http://beatonna.livejournal.com/#entry_140802">See the first Hark, A Vagrant comic here.) Upon arrival at Castle Dracula, Harker is totally unaware that his host is undead; Dracula just seems to keep crazy hours... and there don't seem to be any servants... and they only seem to talk at night... and soon Harker realizes he's a prisoner. Hmmm. Something fishy's going on here. Finally, when Harker sees his host crawling up the side of the castle, his growing suspicions explode into full on freak-out. His journal entry cuts off after he makes an attempt to escape (and after an encounter with three beautiful woman who clearly want to drain him of his blood and perhaps more), so we're left to wonder for a while as to what became of our somewhat dim-witted fellow.

We then switch the focus of our story over to Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra (aside from this small diversion about a ship that arrives with only a dead captain strapped to the helm and a ship's log that suggests something was killing them off one by one... but surely that can't have any play in our main story, can it?). Lucy and Mina write back and forth about their lives and loves. Mina is engaged to Jonathan Harker (and is starting to get concerned when his letters drop off) and Lucy's juggling suitors before receiving three marriages proposals in one day from three friends -- though she accepts the last, Arthur Holmwood. The men remain friends, though Dr. John Seward (who heads up a lunatic asylum) and Mr. Quincey Morris (a brave American) are still in love with Lucy and hover about while Lucy seems to be falling more and more ill. Even a visit from Mina only does Lucy a little good before Mina receives word that Jonathan is in some foreign hospital and she runs to his bedside. Mina, reunited with Jonathan, marries him while abroad (otherwise it wouldn't be seemly, don't you know); meanwhile, the big guns are brought in to figure out Lucy's mystery illness -- Dr. Van Helsing arrives with a crazy theory that he refuses to tell anyone about until it's too late.


Or rather, Dracula. The man (still a man?) himself was on that cursed boat where the crew was picked off one-by-one and now he's on English shores. It's up to Van Helsing, Lucy's grief-stricken suitors, Mina and Jonathan to put a stop to the blood-sucking monster (and Lucy, btw)... but will they be able to succeed without sacrificing yet another of their own?

That's all fairly simplistic, but one of the best parts of this book is watching everyone run around, wondering what could possibly be wrong with Lucy, while the modern reader fights the impulse to shake them all... but of course, how could the characters possibly know? It took this novel to essentially define an entire category of supernatural being so that we would all know the signs. Obviously, Bram Stoker didn't invent vampires, and even Count Dracula himself is based on the

Dracula is one of those books that proves a novel's merit does not always rest in some big reveal. You can know the ending and still have a wonderful experience with just the telling of the story. Every modern reader knows what's going on, and yet the book is still fabulous. It's full of thrills and chills and adventure. The multiple formats allow for perspective shifts that actually add something to the story rather than take away (to the point where it's almost disappointing when everyone is collaborating towards the end so everyone knows what's going on). The female characters are a bit wimpy (except for the lady vampires who nearly ravish Harker) and I find it hard to believe that Mina's excellence is so exemplary that the man fawn over her as they do, but so it goes. It also seemed a bit too easy to dispatch of Dracula the way they did, but I guess any ending would be somewhat unsatisfactory when it ends with the mega-vampire biting the dust. Still, the majority of the novel is a delightful and ridiculous ride. If you haven't read it, you're in for a treat and if you're like me and have read it... well, there's nothing wrong with going back for another bite.

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