‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker: A Review

Author: Bram Stoker
Genre: Fiction, Classics, Horror, Gothic
First Published: 1897
Pages: 315

‘Dracula’ is a fractured narrative made up of journals, newspaper articles and telegrams, collected as evidence of the existence of vampires. The journey starts as we follow Jonathan Harker into the eerie depths of Transylvania, as he plans to meet Count Dracula, to settle the business of the estates that he has bought in England. After an extended stay at Castle Dracula, Jonathan gradually becomes to realise that all is not as it seems, and he is indeed a prisoner in the castle. One evening he witnesses the Count ‘crawl down the castle wall over the dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings’ and he comes face to face with three seductive women, who attempt to drink his blood.

We leave Jonathon despairing in the castle, unable to find any means of escape, and meet his fiancée, Mina, in the coastal town of Whitby. She is paying a visit to her friend Lucy, who suffers from sleepwalking. One evening, Mina wakes to find Lucy has disappeared in her state of unconsciousness. Terrified, Mina goes in search of Lucy, and finds her in the church graveyard, with a mysterious figure of a man looming over her. Mina takes Lucy home, but she suffers a fever, and Jack Seward, a friend of Lucy, calls the aid of his friend Dr Abraham Vanhelsing, to see if he can help the patient. Vanhelsing at once realises that Lucy has been bitten by a vampire by the tell-tale make on her neck, and does everything in his power to save her but Dracula’s grip on Lucy is too strong.

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Reading List #2

As I have just finished the last book on my first reading list, I have decided to share my next one with you! As my summer holiday is slipping away quickly, I have decided that it is time to tackle my university reading list. In my first semester, I will be doing a Shakespeare module and a Gothic module, but I still want to read some of my own books while I have time! So I have decided that I will read a Shakespeare play, Gothic novel, Shakespeare play, book of choice, Shakespeare play, Gothic novel…etc. So, here are my first ten plays/books to read!

1.Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare

2. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe  GOTHIC 

3. King Richard the Second by William Shakespeare

4. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

5.The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

6. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle GOTHIC

7. King Henry the Fifth by William Shakespeare

8. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

9. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

10. Dracula by Bram Stoker GOTHIC

So this should keep me busy for a while! Plus, I still have the reviews from the last two books I read, (Dr Jekyll and Mr Holmes and Elsewhere) so keep an eye out for these! And of course I will be reviewing all of these as soon as I have finished them!

Also, if you haven’t had chance yet but you are interested in doing so, I would appreciate it if you would have a look at the article that I wrote about the Horror Night as part of our local literary festival. Thank you!

‘Carrie’ by Stephen King: A Review

Author: Stephen King
Genre: Fiction, Horror, Thriller
First Published: 1974
Pages: 245

 

Carrie wasn’t like everyone else. The quiet, religious girl was the butt of every joke. But when she is humiliated just one time too many, the small community is obliterated by her secret power.

In a small New England town, high school students are getting ready for their prom. Talk centres around dates and dresses as the countdown to the prom is on. However, an incident in the showers after a sports lesson sets catastrophic wheels in motion. Carrie White is an outsider. She has no friends and has been picked on by almost every student since she started school. She suffers quietly but the anger inside her builds up. Carrie’s bizarre religious upbringing results in constant punishment from her mother and a sheltered life. Carrie has a power though. When Carrie is humiliated in front of the whole school at the prom she knows exactly how to take her revenge. Before long Carrie is leading a trail of destruction through the town, with the soul intention of obliterating anyone who ever hurt her; she becomes an unstoppable force.

When my dad gave me this book to read he promised me a scary/thrilling book and sadly I was disappointed. I am a great lover of Stephen King’s short stories, but this was the first of his novels that I have read. I was initially disappointed with the lack of ‘scariness’ that my dad had promised me. I found the book pretty tedious for the first hundred pages and once the action really started, it still had little impact on me. I think the main reason for this is the structure of the plot. It is constructed in retrospect from ‘articles,’ ‘books,’ or ‘witness statements’ about ‘the event,’ which I still feel is a particularly creative way of presenting the plot, but it jarred with me because I found that the constantly switching view points and sources meant that it was impossible to build tension effectively, resulting in a low impact upon the reader.

The other point I disliked about the book was the clichéd stereotypes that are presented within King’s microcosm. The characters are your stereotypical ‘popular’ students whose bitchiness is directed at the religious outcast. The ‘in’ crowed consider the prom to be the most important night of their lives and they have very little thought of what they will do in the ‘real’ world. Because the characters slotted neatly into the classic American stereotypes, I found they pretty two-dimensional. There was no way you could relate to the characters and therefore it was impossible to sympathise with them. I feel that this lack of sympathy also reduces the impact of ‘the event’ as you cannot feel for the characters; therefore what happens to them seems irrelevant.

Do I just come a generation too late to fully appreciate this book?

The one point in the book that I did find moving however, was the aftermath of the destruction. The plot suddenly became very touching once the action was over and the accounts came from those who were left behind to pick up the pieces. They rang haunting reminders of events such as 9/11 and the Columbine disaster, and I feel that this is where the book really shines as it is captures in a beautiful yet sympathetic way.

Ultimately, ‘Carrie’ wasn’t a book for me. I think the high expectations that I had lead me to view it so critically, but I was incredibly disappointed. I won’t, however, let this put me off reading other Stephen King novel, and hopefully the next one I read will appeal to me much more.

Favourite quote: ‘Her mind and nervous system had become a library. Someone in desperate need ran through her, fingers trailing lightly over shelves of books, lifting some out, scanning them, putting them back, letting some fall, leaving the pages to flutter wildly.’ (pp. 230-1)

Rating: 4/10

I’d love to hear the views of others who have read this one!

The Omen – A truly frightening horror story

Author: David Seltzer
Genre: Horror, Fiction, Film Tie-in
First Published: 1976
Pages: 192

David Seltzer, writer of the screenplay, succeeds in writing a horror story that will terrify you, and yet you still won’t be able to put it down!

In Rome one night, American diplomat Robert Thorn exchanges his dead child for a new-born orphan. No one, not even his wife, knows of the swap. As the boy, Damien, grows older, strange events start happening. First, his Nanny dies in strange circumstances, and then a suspicious new Nanny and ferocious black dog appear to take care of him. Kathy, Robert’s wife has a serious accident and a peculiar old priest stalks Thorn to tell him that his son is the spawn of the devil. As the deaths begin to increase, Thorn must race across Rome, Jerusalem and London to try and unravel the truth. With an almost unbearable cliff-hanger at the end, you’ll want to pick up the next novel straight away to find out what happens next!

The novel version of ‘The Omen’ is written by the same author as that of the 1976 screenplay. Being aware of this fact, I wasn’t sure how the story would read. However, the novel itself is well written, and the only indication of it being written by a screenwriter is the amount of dialogue used. This does not take away from the essence of the story however, and the more of the novel you read, the more you are drawn in to the characters, who are very well constructed and believable.

The plot itself does take a little while to pick up, but once the first death has occurred, the pace picks up dramatically and the strange events become more and more frequent. By the time I was half way through the novel, I couldn’t put it down until I had finished. The plot swiftly moves from unnerving to thoroughly scary as you progress. I was very impressed by the fact that the story managed to put me on edge – only very few novels successfully manage to be perceived as scary, so Seltzer has handled this very well.

I haven’t seen the film ‘The Omen,’ so I cannot compare the book to the film; however, as they were both written by the same man, it is likely that they will be similar. I believe that some alternative names were used in the book, and Seltzer was able to develop the character histories more fully (as suggested by the Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Omen#Novels) Now I have finished the book, I am considering avoiding the film, because if I found the book scary, the film will frighten the life out of me! I do, however, want to start reading the other four books in the series!

Favourite quote: ‘From the Eternal Sea he rises. Creating armies on either shore. Turning man against his brother. ‘Til man exists no more!’

Rating: 9/10 (10/10 for scariness!)