by William Kenney
“We are in Transylvania, and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things. Nay, from what you have told me of your experiences already, you know something of what strange things there may be.”
If you haven’t read this one, do yourself a favor and let your Halloween reading start with the grand-daddy of all vampire tale.
There is a reason Bram Stoker’s Dracula has generated countless movies, parodies, and retellings, and although it is far from the first vampire story, it is certainly one of the most memorable.
In Dracula, we journey from the ancient Carpathian Mountains to the familiar streets of Victorian London. An unexplainable shadow from a forgotten land looms over the heart of the modernizing world.
Books like Frankenstein deal with humankind pushing science, questioning just how far it can go before science pushes back. Dracula deals with something science cannot explain- something from an older age. Stoker asks his reader to glance behind themself- technology has started to answer many questions and solve many problems, what if something escaped from an old castle and cast doubt on everything that had been explained.
As Van Helsing reminds us, “Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.”
A problem with many paranormal books written today is that they are too interested with explaining the ‘rules’ of the vampire/ghost/[insert generic monster here].
The authors have no doubt spent many mornings in front of their laptops deciding exactly what makes a ghost haunt an old house on a hill and they are going to tell you. A strength of the horror genre is to leave things ambiguous, instead of explaining every detail of the monster.
One reason Dracula strikes such a chord with me is because the shadows always seem just beyond the edge of the page.
The beauty of Dracula is you never get the Official Rule Book of Vampires. The extent of Dracula’s power is often unclear, leaving the reader wondering if our heroes are ever actually safe.
What makes Dracula so scary however is not how much force he wields, but the way he uses it. He seems to be able to control people, but he seems to only beckon women out in the middle of the night… total creeper right?
Although Dracula is over a century old, it still managed to give me a proper scare, and certainly, let my imagination run to a distant place. The character Dracula isn’t remembered because of countless movie renditions- Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, or the big-headed kid from Twilight- but because there is something about the character that leaves analyzing exactly what he is.
By the end of the novel, just as our heroes, we are nowhere near explaining exactly what Dracula is, and we should be more afraid of him than we are.
“What devil or what witch was ever so great as Attila, whose blood is in these veins?”