I listened to Dracula by Bram Stoker on audio for Allie’s October readalong. If you don’t know anything at all about Dracula, go read it for yourself! I don’t want to ruin it for you. If you’ve read it, or if you know the story’s outline, you can read further without fear of spoilers.
About the Book:
Written in 1897 by Irish author Bram Stoker, Dracula tells the story of the infamous Count Dracula of Transylvania and his nefarious nocturnal activities. Though not the first vampire novel ever written, it is one of the best known. It follows the Count’s movements and actions through the letters and journals of a small band of people who both believe in and desire to eliminate him.
Until I met Dracula, I thought I hated all scary, creepy, and otherwise Halloween-appropriate novels. Turns out that’s not the case at all. On the contrary, Dracula delighted me and left me trying to find times to listen to just a bit more. Apparently I’m not opposed to classic horror at all!
I think what I liked best about Dracula was its format. It’s epistolary, made up entirely of letters and journal entries. I know many other novels have used this approach with varying success, but in Dracula, it was perfect. The start of the novel explains that because what follows are the immediate impressions of those involved, no one can claim memories became less accurate with time or accounts may have been heavily edited before being written. At the same time, of course, it is difficult to know how accurate these first-person eyewitness accounts really are. The story contains an explanation as to how the pieces of the novel came to be organized chronologically into a single volume, which I appreciated.
As a newcomer to the vampire genre, I appreciated how Dracula laid out some of the ground rules of vampires. I don’t know how universal the lore presented in Stoker’s classic is, but several pieces were familiar, at least, which led me to believe the rest might be common as well. Because I knew so little about vampires going in, I really had no idea what was happening at some points or why certain events or discoveries boded what other readers may have known they did. I had fun discovering the answers along with the characters.
I liked the whole little band of good people voluntarily plunging into darkness and evil to eradicate the plague on humanity that is Count Dracula. My favorite character, though, was undeniably Abraham van Helsing — what a bad-ass! I loved his cryptic comments and mysterious ways. He’s the only one of the gang who doesn’t contribute much first-person recollection to the narrative, which makes him even more intriguing and inscrutable.
My one complaint — and it’s only a minor one — was the length. When everyone was hanging out in England, perhaps there could have been a little less sitting around, a few fewer vampire encounters before they got the ball rolling. I think I would have gotten bored in a couple of spots if I’d been reading the book. On audio, though, I got through it just fine.
Speaking of the audiobook, the narrator I listened to was Robert Whitfield, and he was excellent. His sense of drama was just right, taking the story seriously but not overly so. He varied each character’s voice just enough that you could tell who was talking. The only rough spot was his American accent, which came out about 75% Southern and 25% British — still much better than my own British accent! Overall, an excellent way to experience Stoker’s classic vampire story for the first time.
Was Dracula a touch cheesy in spots, a little overdramatic? Of course. But I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it perfect for some Halloween-ish October reading.