(2018) Dacre Stoker & J. D. Barker, Black Swan, £8.99, pbk, 591pp, ISBN 978-1-784-16442-3
I enjoyed this book, and would thoroughly recommend it.
Having said that, this is a prequel, and I am never too sure about the value of prequels/sequels. Are they there to fill a gap in the readers knowledge, to explain a mystery (or create a new one), or just to make a fast buck on the back of an out of copyright book when you can’t come up with an idea of your own? (I also have a memory of a quiz show on the radio where contestants had to come up with book titles for sequels, the winner being the sequel to Ben Hur – ‘I’m sure I’ve Ben Hur before’.) But this one has been authorised by the Bram Stoker Estate, and if they’re happy, I’m happy.
The action focuses on the early and middle years of Bram Stoker, and as far as I have been able to ascertain, all the characters (apart from the title one) were real people; the map of Dublin adds to this authenticity. The plot hinges on the mysterious illness that Bram had in his childhood, which seems to have been mysteriously cured more-or-less overnight, by a much-loved-but creepy nanny. The novel is in 3 parts (Part 1, Part 2, and Now). The first two flick back and forward between childhood (where Bram is cured in Part 1), his middle years (where Bram, his sister Matilda, and his brother Thornley become further and further embroiled with the undead) and Now (Bram trapped in a tower, in Whitby, surrounded by the undead).
In the 'Now' part (which of course is 1868, not now – it tends to get confusing), the action moves to an abandoned village outside Munich, abandoned because Dracul wanted to hide something precious there, and so created a village of the undead which no one would then go near. And night is closing in … There is almost a minute-by-minute countdown to the final scene … And there I’ll stop, for I want you to go buy the book.
It is allegedly based on papers left behind by Bram Stoker, and the missing 100 pages from the start of Dracula. Apparently, the original manuscript is owned by Paul Allen, cofounder of Microsoft, who I guess can afford such items, and there is a raft of photographs of documents at the end of the book. The ‘problem’ for readers is how much of this to believe. Literature is full of ‘found’ documents, from alleged diaries in, for instance, the work of H P Lovecraft, to the ‘found-footage’ of the Blair Witch Project. Added to this is the fact that one of the authors is the great-grand-nephew of Bram himself – would he sully the family name with fictitious items? Being a gullible soul. I’m willing to believe.
Go buy the book and enjoy
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