Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Due to our culture's recent obsession and fascination with vampires and the popularity of movie series such as Twilight and Underworld, I decided to read the novel that started it all.  Of course there were many vampire stories, myths, and legends before Dracula, but none have made as much of an impact on our culture as the timeless classic by Bram Stoker.  As I read the classic novel, the captivating plot and brilliant narration style made it quite obvious as to why this book has become one of the most popular horror novels of all time.  The many Dracula movies and television depictions of the title character are a testament to the genius of the novel and are proof that it belongs in any list of greatest books of all time.

When reading a novel, one can expect it to be one of two narration styles: third-person with the author being the omniscient narrator, or first-person with the main character telling the story from their narrowed point-of-view.  The brilliance of Dracula is that it is a combination of both.  Stoker wrote the book as if it were a compilation of various diaries, newspaper articles, letters, and memorandums written by several of the main characters.  These various writing were put in chronological order by the characters in order that they can best study the mystery as to how to find and destroy Count Dracula.  The result is a wide variety of first-person accounts that when put together create the same reading sensation as if the entire story were told in the third-person by an omniscient narrator.  This concept is not particular to this book, however; more recently Rick Riordan has used a similar technique in The Red Pyramid, a story about a brother and sister who are in a conflict with the Egyptian gods.  Dracula, no doubt, may have influenced Riordan to write in this style.

As far as character development goes, the book is an absolute masterpiece.  Most times, a reader only sees a character develop from the perspective of the narrator, whether it be in the first or third person.  In Dracula, readers are able to see characters develop from a multitude of perspectives due to the narration style chosen by Stoker.  The result is a deep understanding of each character and an attachment to certain characters that is rarely achieved in any book.

There were times, I must admit, that the language was lost on me.  The book comes from a different country in a different time and had many terms and phrases that are unfamiliar to the modern reader.  I did have the benefit of reading it on my Kindle and could look up many of the words' definitions just by moving by cursor in front of the word.  There were, however, some Latin words and phrases that I could not translate right away and was, for the moment, left to use context clues as what their meaning could be.  These instances, though, did not deter from a high level of enjoyment and entertainment while reading.

Having read Dracula, I feel like I have a better understanding and appreciation for the images and movies that are played during the Halloween festivities.  The book itself was not nearly as gory as modern movies portray vampires, but it was highly suspenseful and had, in my opinion, a more shocking affect than any Hollywood movie could achieve.  This is perhaps why it has been a favorite amongst vampire enthusiasts and literary fans for over 100 years.  It takes a very special book and a brilliant author in order to achieve such a level, and Bram Stoker's genius narrating style and enthralling character development have made Dracula into one of the best books of all time.

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