Maybe some ideas are best left in the grave. Dracula: The Un-Dead hit the horror wire a few months ago with a fair bit of hype. The reasons for this are that the book was based on notes from Bram Stoker, himself. They were a series of unused plot points and concepts that didn’t wind up in his original Dracula manuscript. The other piece of the hype puzzle was that it was to be written by Dacre Stoker, a distant relative of Bram. The good news is that two thirds of the book work. The bad news is that the remaining third practically ruins everything.
Dracula: The Un-Dead is a sequel to the original Bram Stoker classic, Dracula. It picks up twenty five years after the first novel and all is not well for everyone. Jack Seward is a morphine addict whose life was ruined by the horror of Dracula. Quincy Harker, the son of Johnathan and Mina ditches his law school studies for the stage and finds his way to a production of Dracula being put on by Bram Stoker. Van Helsing and The Harkers are also still in the picture but someone is on the prowl and they’re hunting down the people who killed Dracula.
Stoker’s writing, Dacre, that is, is better than I expected it to be. He’s adequately descriptive and writes good dialog. Everything culled from the original Stoker’s notes is top notch and handled well and even the angle of Bram Stoker in the sequel to his novel, a very fan fictionish approach to writing, is balanced and without a hint of awkwardness. Dacre Stoker manages to take Bram Stoker’s ideas that he tossed out of Dracula, works in some of Bram’s own history and the story of Sir Henry Irving but then it all falls apart when it becomes clear that Stoker’s notes didn’t paint a complete picture. The even handed gothic horror approach stops being a reflection of the Count Dracula legacy and the work of Hammer Films and looks something more like the Underworld movies or The Matrix. There are wild, deeply stupid plot twists, hyper descriptive martial arts fight scenes and page after page of nauseating dialog. Cracks begin to show in what looks like a solid plot and the entire story unravels before your disbelieving eyes.
It was a good idea, I suppose, but Dracula: The Un-Dead smacks of novelty. A book that was picked up because of the Stoker family tree, the vogue status of vampires these days and what was probably perceived as a strong manuscript. But did anyone at Penguin actually finish the book before they agreed to publish it?