Cursing ahead. Fairly be ye warned.
I really liked Dracula at first. Yes, the style was older and the letter/journal format took some getting used to. However, the first section of the book—where Jonathan Harker is in Romania visiting Castle Dracula for the first time—is perfectly gothic and creepy and I loved it.
The slow reveal as he begins to realize not all is what it seems, his encounter with the three vampire women, his escape attempts when he finds out Dracula has no intention of letting him leave…it was great. I wanted more.
Things slowed down when we switched from Jonathan to Mina Murray and Dr. Seward, but picked back up the moment the unmanned ship drifted into port in England during a horrific storm.
In some ways, the journal style of the novel increased the sensation of discovery as bits and pieces of Dracula’s plan and actions were revealed, whether through an interview with a zookeeper or an article in the paper about the unmanned ship.
I was enjoying the book, you guys. It was good. I was having fun. I didn’t even want to go back in time to stab Bram Stoker for his egregious use of dialect. (I HATE phonetic dialect in books. Makes me so stabby. One or two words, to get the flavor? Fine with me. Every single word for eight paragraphs? Not so much.)
(I’m going to spoil the hell out of this, for those of you who have somehow managed to neither read the book nor see ANY of the eight billion Dracula movies that have been made since 1922.)
Approximately 60% of the way through the book, all of our various viewpoint characters have finally gotten together: Jonathan and Mina (now Mina Harker), Dr. Van Helsing, Dr. John Seward, Quincey Morris, and Arthur Holmwood (now Lord Godalming). They SPECIFICALLY SAY that they have read EVERYTHING at this point: all Mina’s notes, Lucy’s letters, Dr. Seward’s recorded journals, EVERYTHING.
So all the main characters should, theoretically, know everything the reader does at this point. Which means they should all be well aware of what happened to Lucy (Dracula fed on her, which caused her to turn pale and sleep all the time, and then she died and became a vampire). Not only that, but Mina was WITH Lucy for the beginning of that, and all three of Lucy’s suitors plus Van Helsing were there for the end of it. It is a HUGE PART of the first half of the book.
With me so far?
What happens after this involves six people grabbing the Idiot Ball and running with it so hard you’d think they were returning it for a Moron Touchdown.
Item the First: Quincey Morris, the American, goes outside during their big powwow to shoot at a GIANT BAT sitting near the window, specifically because all the crap that was happening with Dracula was making him not like bats. (Note: I said “shoot at” because he didn’t hit it. Think there’s a chance this giant bat was Dracula and he’s privy to their plans?)
Item the Second: After the gentlemen have made their plans and agreed not to tell Mina anything else about it (because she’s a lovely, delicate creature who should just leave them to men’s work), Jonathan makes comments that Mina seems pale and she’s sleeping much more soundly than usual. He must call her several times to wake her.
Item the Third: MINA HERSELF starts talking about her trouble sleeping—either being tired all the time or sleeping very soundly. And then she starts describing a “dream” (I use quotes because she’s not even sure it’s a dream) about a white mist coming up to the house and coming in through the window and seeing eyes and a face in the mist JUST LIKE LUCY DESCRIBED.
And nobody—not a one of them—says, “You know, Mrs. Harker’s acting a lot like Miss Westerna did before she died. Perhaps the Count has started feeding on her?”
THIS PROSPECT DOES NOT EVEN OCCUR TO THEM. None of them, not even FUCKING MINA.
I was halfway through that dream description when I had to turn the Kindle off and step away before I broke it.
I will roll with a lot of things. My suspension of disbelief is expansive, perhaps to the point of gullibility. But the precise moment the characters lose all critical thinking skills for no GODDAMN REASON is the moment you lose me as a reader.
It took me another few months to finish Dracula, partly because I started editing heavily and partly because I had to wait until my blood pressure subsided and I could get past everybody in the book getting hit with Sudden Onset Temporary Dumbass Syndrome.
Because frankly, at that point, you deserve to get eaten by the vampire.