The month of Halloween brings us Dracula The Un-Dead, a bone-chilling sequel to the classic and the latest in the classic novel revisionist craze. This continuation of Bram Stoker’s Victorian thriller isn’t just family-sanctioned, it’s co-written by a family member. With the assistance of Ian Holt, a Dracula documentarian, historian and screenwriter, The Un-Dead was created by Dacre Stoker, the great-grandnephew of Bram, who claims parts of the novel are based on material cut from the original Dracula and Bram’s own notes.
The Un-Dead rejoins the band of friends and lovers who survived the original novel—Mina and Jonathan, Seward, Holmwood, even Van Helsing—now 25 years after the purported demise of Dracula. Over the years they have each faced disappointment and drifted apart, but they are brought back together when it appears that those who once hunted Dracula have now become the hunted. Someone—or something—is out to get them. Could it be that Dracula himself survived and is back for revenge, or might it be something even more sinister?
In a way, it seems likely that Dacre Stoker has been waiting his entire lifetime to resuscitate and reimagine the immortal prince. In The Un-Dead, Stoker and Holt have assembled an all-star cast highlighting the key players and events throughout history, weaving in Jack the Ripper, the Countess Bathory and her centuries-old rivalry with Vlad Tepes (the historical inspiration for Dracula), the burning of the Lyceum, the voyage of the Titanic and yes, even Bram Stoker himself. Indeed, the cameos and tributes—as clever and playful as they may be—are at times so numerous that they risk overwhelming the plot itself. Additionally, there are a few historical slips that will trip up vampire diehards, for example the erroneous statement that Vlad is short for Vladimir, rather than Vladislav, which was actually the historical prince’s real name.
Since Dracula is often viewed as a creature symbolizing lust and unquenched desire, it is perhaps unsurprising that The Un-Dead owes as much in tone to contemporary romance novels as to the post-Anne Rice vampire epics. The eroticism that merely coils beneath the surface of Dracula is overt here, complete with actual bodice-ripping. The violence is also more explicit, befitting a more modern audience, and ramps up throughout the course of the novel. At times it verges on gruesome, but thankfully touches of humor, however dark, manage to save these scenes and offer the appropriate respite. At one point in the novel, a man feels the strong urge to vomit upon realizing he has been gutted, but then of course he remembers that he (quite literally) no longer has the stomach for such action.
As for the prose itself, the initial attempt to capture the Victorian style of writing embodied in a letter from Mina to her son is a bit clunky; however readers who persevere through this experiment in writing will ultimately be rewarded with a breathless narrative rife with twists and turns. The writing is spirited, if not inspired, and the story will quickly capture readers’ interests and imaginations. The Un-Dead is a slow boil that eventually builds up a good deal of steam and ambient mist, although perhaps a “red fog” would be more apt. Apparently it’s true what they say: it’s hard to keep a good vampire down!
Eve Zibart was born on Halloween, and her license plate reads “vampyr.”