A catalyst for gothic horror and the many spin-offs of such a tenacious genre, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a founding father of decrepit castles, cobweb-infused coffins and kindles the fears of hearing a bump in the night. Told through diary entries, memorandums, letters and news clippings, Dracula details a chronological order which hopes to bring frights and terrors to the forefront of its story, which details the titular Count and his meddlesome passage to England. There, he is met with clear opposition, and this cast of heroic protagonists stop at nothing to send him back to where he came from. The grave, not Transylvania.
In fact, we spend little time in Transylvania. Aside from the first act and a few pages of the finale, we are bound to the beautiful seaside of Whitby and the smog-infested streets of London. It should be no real surprise that the flair and brilliance of Dracula is found in its opening chapters. From the perspective of solicitor Jonathan Harker, we are given a sense and description for how horrid a beast The Count is. Most of this detail does not appear again, Stoker seems to have chosen his favourite few descriptions and stuck with them, the slender, pale fingers and ability to scuttle down walls left to the first act. Stoker’s sentences are often lengthy, peppered with commas and semi-colons. He draws out his descriptions, some work incredibly well, and a few find themselves taking up chunks of the page with little effect on the narrative.
One of the key issues, though, is that for all these memorable and interesting characters, nobody aside from the titular villain has a unique voice. He does not show up as often as one would expect. Diary entries and letters keep the story moving, a strong innovation for the time and one that works eloquently, but not something that applies much thought. Aside from occasional colloquialisms, it is hard to distinguish a unique voice for many of the characters. They are identifiable in their name, but to compare the diary entries of Harker to that of Dr. John Seward would reap minimal results. Stoker’s style brings information out of them evidently well, but he has no time for making these characters feel uniquely defined in the words he uses or the style he has chosen.
An exceptional book, even if the issue of consistency is raised more than once. Dracula is a classic, and rightly so, but that does not mean it is without its problems. Birthing perhaps my favourite of the gothic horror monsters thus far, Stoker provides an exceptionally descriptive book that has more than a handful of pacing and prose issues. It is a shame, however, that the vivid detail he utilises to explain and cultivate the titular character is all but lost by the final moments. As bland and quantitative as the soil and dirt he surrounds himself with, there is a chance for growth as a character, but Stoker shies away from the potential.