Dracula by Bram Stoker. Performed by Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, and Steven Crossley.
I read Dracula many years ago, about the same time I read Frankenstein,The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. A bit of overload on the Victorian novels.
So I found this audiobook with Alan Cumming doing most of the heavy lifting and thought I would give it a listen. I have to say the cast here did an amazing job. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Dracula, whereas reading it was slow torture.
Ok, so what about the story? Well, it is still a bit baffling in many ways. The villain, Count Dracula is a complete mystery. We never find out much about him. We never know the full extent of his powers, why he targets the victims he targets, or how he does what he does. Dracula is more a demi-god here than a mere blood drinking vampire. He controls the weather, can turn into pretty anything he wants to turn into from bat to mist to wolf, he controls wolves and rats, he has the strength of twenty men, and so on and so forth. It is, in short, impossible to understand him or his motives.
We start off with Jonathan Harker taking the perilous trip from London to Transylvania. Once there, he is imprisoned by the Count. There is no reason for this. The Count keeps him hostage and even impersonates him so that the locals will hate him. When the Count leaves for London himself, he leaves Jonathan to the tender mercies for three women vampires. We later learn that Jonathan escaped from these monsters, but we never learn how.
The story is told in a series of journals and letters and newspaper clippings. So that the point of view changes from chapter to chapter, but still remains mostly the same in tone. There are massive amounts of details about all kinds of random and curious things. One of the people mentions that he stopped for tea at the Aerated Bread Company and other characters talk at some length about the many places they visit on their quest to track down the Count in London.
Again we find Dracula doing things without rhythm or reason. Why does he attack Mina? Then Lucy? Why does he torment the madman Renfield? Why does he seem intent on doing harm to the Law firm that helped him buy property in London?
Of equal mystery is the vampire hunter Van Helsing. How does he know so much and yet also so little about vampires? He talks about how to kill vampires, and then talks about all the myths that he has to assume are true. He does mention things like vampires can’t cross moving water or enter a house without being invited. He has no idea why.
There is a lot of talk about the saving of souls and how a vampire can be forgiven all sins-if you kill it by cutting it’s head off and stuff it’s mouth with garlic. Really? Centuries and murder and turning others into vampires and all is forgiven and he is welcomed into heaven?
Dracula was an amazing book, but it did drag in a few spots. Dracula was still a bit of work, even just listening to it, but it was worth the effort.