I’m going to admit something here and now, something which I’m sure my fellow horror fans will probably want to flay me alive for even thinking, let alone giving voice to:
I’m not a fan of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
I’m not sure what it is, but something about the book just doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve tried reading it a few times and each time I do, I just can’t get into it (although interestingly enough, the other horror classic, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, is in my eyes one of the greatest books ever written).
But that’s quite different from the character of Dracula. I love the character of Dracula, I just don’t care much for his first outing. He is, without a doubt, one of the best villains ever created. So popular that even now, over a century after his creation, he still manages to raise hairs on the back of your neck. That’s nothing to scoff at.
One of the best things about Dracula is also one of the worst. Since Bram Stoker’s Dracula is in the public domain, anyone can use one of literature’s greatest villains in their story. The downside to this is that…well, anyone can use one of literature’s greatest villains in their story. This has led to some truly awful renditions of the character (if you’ve seen Dracula 2000 or Blade: Trinity, you know what I’m talking about).
Dracula has transcended the medium of literature. He’s been depicted in film, television, comic books, video games, stage (including a puppet musical in Forgetting Sarah Marshall), and so on. There are some very iconic Dracula renditions, my personal favorite being Christopher Lee’s portrayal in the classic Hammer films.
Of course, this is all just rambling and for that I’m sorry. I’m supposed to be talking about Joshua Reynolds’ latest book, Dracula Lives! And I should devote some time to it, because remember how I mentioned lesser writers who completely abused Dracula’s character?
Josh isn’t one of those guys.
Josh’s Dracula is menacing, imposing, monstrously vicious and savage, but also with a certain charm and elegance. And the amazing thing about Dracula Lives? For the most part, Dracula’s not in it. He remains an imposing figure in the background, and the build-up and tension to his first appearance is handled with masterful subtlety and suspense. By the time Dracula does show his face, you might think it’d be a let-down. But no, not at all — Dracula’s debut in this novel is well-worth the wait.
Of course, you won’t be doing much waiting. The book’s not very long and there’s plenty to keep you entertained up until the titular character stands revealed. Dracula’s been portrayed in gothic romances, slasher flicks, comedies, but it’s not often you see him in a tale of espionage and mystery. And that’s exactly what this is — an espionage thriller, complete with backstabs, shady characters from shady organizations, and some femme fatales for added bonus.
The book centers around an assassin named Jonas Cream. And if you’re like me, you may have chuckled a little when you first read that name. But fortunately, Josh doesn’t give you much time to mock the character and quickly, you’re shown that Cream is the kind of guy you don’t want to mess around with. Unless of course you’re part of one of the shady organizations pulling his strings or trying to kill him.
The thrills never let up, and the veil of mystery over why Cream is so important to these people is handled masterfully. But even better than that, even better than Cream’s development through the book, is the growing menace that casts a shadow over every page. So by the time the last page hits, you are left dumbfounded.
This is only the first of a series of Dracula novels Josh is working on. The second one is titled Dracula Unbound! which if the preview at the end of this book is any indication, hopefully won’t be too far off.
180 pages, available from Pulpwork Press
Buy now at my store!