Dracula: The Undead is an unofficial sequel to Bran Stoker’s vampire classic, Dracula. Actually, there are at least two books by this name. One is written by Freda Warrington, a British writer, and was released in 1997 – the original’s 100th anniversary. The other is co-written by Darce Stoker (Bram Stoker’s great grand-nephew) and Ian Holt. On the one hand, the Stoker sequel is much easier to find because it’s a more recent release, but on the other hand, it’s apparently not that good. I might read it eventually, but I’m here to talk about Warrington’s sequel.
Before we get into Dracula: The Undead, let’s talk about the original classic. Not long after I started writing my novels, I started watching a bunch of vampire movies and read up a bunch of articles about them. After I wrote the fifth book’s second draft (at the time I thought of trying to get that one published first), I decided to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the first novel I read in years. I haven’t written a post about it because of how well known it is, and because there are plenty of articles written about the book already.
That said, here are my thoughts on Dracula. It’s a compelling read, but for those used to today’s faster paced-books, it can take a while to get going. The opening chapters take their time to develop the landscape surrounding Dracula’s castle. It helps complete the book’s atmosphere, but impatient readers might grow bored until the book gets moving. That said, once the book starts moving it doesn’t slow down. One thing that really works about the book is its subtlety. It’s never confirmed whether Dracula has feelings for Mina, who he is or exactly where his powers come from. There are allusions that he’s Vlad the Impaler, but it’s never confirmed. There’s a lot of religious symbolism that enriches the story, so much so that if one wishes, they could interpret the book as a Christian allegory piece. It deserves its spot as a classic and an influential piece in vampire literature.
Dracula: The Undead feels like a natural continuation of the original in more ways than one. All of the characters who survived the original appear in this one, and their personalities are perfectly recognizable. The religious themes are present, but it’s written in a matter that you could interpret them in whichever way you want. As with the original, the book is written in the form of diaries and letters. It kicks off exactly where the original ended, with the survivors visiting Castle Dracula, although in this book it’s to re-assure to themselves that Dracula is indeed gone. However, it’s their very presence that awakens Dracula’s spirit.
The first half of the book is the better half, as it focuses on Dracula’s return to his physical form. His disembodied spirit possessed various characters, providing most of the books best creepy moments. There are a couple new characters, most notably Elena, a young woman from Hungary, and Quincey, Jonathan and Mina’s son. Elena’s a great character, one whose actions and motivations adds weight to the book’s themes and really helps the plot move.
The second half of the book isn’t as great as the first, but it’s still good. Here, Dracula appears on page much more than the original, and both his vampire origin and motivations are explored in detail. He’s still clearly evil and holds much hatred for the crew that defeated him, but it turns out he has a soft spot for Mina and Quincey. Much of the first book’s subtlety is absent in the second half, especially with the mutual attraction between Dracula and Mina. There’s also the suggestion that Dracula might be Quincey’s actual father, and that might anger some of the original’s fans. That said, the sexual tension works more often than not, and Mina’s internal struggle with her feelings keeps the story interesting. Warrington still leaves much open to interpretation, including whether Dracula is Vlad the Impaler or not.
While Dracula is clearly evil, he’s not the main villain in this book. That belongs to another vampire, who was created around the same time as Dracula, but is forever trapped in an ancient building unless Dracula returns and “pays his due”. The power struggle between the two vampires leads to an epic struggle and an ending that, while intense, feels like it ends too quick.
I’m glad I read this. As someone who is also writing a series that borrows elements from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it feels relieving that Dracula in this book survived by similar means. Basically, Van Helsing’s team stabbed him in the heart with a bowie knife instead of a wooden stake. My method of Dracula’s return is different, which is also relieving.
Dracula: The Undead might be hard to track down unless it’s reprinted or made available in E-Book form. When I searched for it, I learned that its last printing was probably in 2009. I ordered it used second hand on Amazon, and thankfully my copy is a hardcover in good condition. This book is worth looking into if you enjoy the original. It loses much of Dracula’s subtlety, but everything feels like a natural continuation and it carries the same kind of tension that the original thrived on. It’s a good vampire book.