Monday, October 18, 2010
The Bad Monster
Dracula by Bram Stoker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was unsure about it at first, but it has definitely grown on me. Coming from the far side of the genre, it's chief problem is the predictability: I know how it ends, and the getting there isn't that big of a surprise.
One of the greatest strengths of this book is that, in a sense, it's the Napoleon Dynamite of Vampire (hear me out on this). Napoleon Dynamite gave the lie to the ten-thousand movies that worshiped the Prom God: you're a dork and your life is hell, but then you win the prom and the guy likes you and you get a scholarship and all ends happily, right? In Napoleon Dynamite, they won the prom, and nothing changed. They were still morons. Well, in all the modern teeny-bopper "vampyre" stories, the vampires (or at least some of them) are the heroes, the misunderstood homicidal psychopaths. Their parents just didn't love them enough, and nobody understands them. They're sexy and desirable and dangerous and mysterious, basically everything that no intelligent girl with a halfway decent father should want (which is probably why they're selling so well: we have crappy absentee dads raising stupid, self-immolating daughters). Well, Bram Stoker's Dracula? Not so much. He's dangerous and diabolical, a demon in human shape. He's the actual villain--seriously--the monster is the bad guy. I never would have thought of that. He takes the vile child-slaughtering demon, and actually vilifies him. Poor, misunderstood little monster. Of course, this was written in 1897 and was still widely read in 1997 and may yet be in 2097, whereas Stephanie Meyer will be largely lost by 2057--just a few single moms setting their own daughters on the path to seek out that dangerous lover.
One of the more fascinating things about the book is the way that he avoids (or at least minimizes) the whole "he said" at the end of every line of dialogue: the entire thing is either letters or diary entries. The entire thing. It's really kind of brilliant, and actually works really well, due to the dramatic flair that some of his character's have. It also seems that it would make it a good deal more difficult, as every couple chapters you have to have a different character telling the story, so you have to put an entirely different emotional spin on each of the events, etc. But, he pulls it off quite well.
A good read so far, and I expect to enjoy the end.
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