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Dracula's Guest, by Bram Stoker Book Review | SFReader.com
Dracula's Guest, by Bram Stoker Genre: Horror Anthology Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd Published: 1914 Review Posted: 3/21/2007 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 8 out of 10
Dracula's Guest, by Bram Stoker
Book Review by Jeff Edwards
Have you read this book?
He wrote a dozen novels, but Bram Stoker will always be known as the author of "Dracula." This must have been apparent already to Stoker's widow in 1914, when she published a posthumous collection of her late husband's short fiction: She called the book - what else? - Dracula's Guest.
According to Florence Stoker's brief introduction, the title story is an excised episode from "Dracula." In the tale, an adventurous Englishman on holiday in Munich is determined to enjoy a walk in the countryside, regardless of his carriage driver's strenuous objections. The foolhardy narrator doesn't appreciate the significance of the date: Walpurgis Night, when the wall separating us from the spirit world grows thin. Though he encounters one of the undead, the man is clearly under the protection of a mysterious count from a distant country.
In "The Judge's House," a Cambridge student rents a long-vacant home in order to study without distractions. Preparing for exams has never been so dangerous: Each night, an enormous rat materializes in a chair by the fireplace. It's difficult to frighten away the creature; the rat dodges all books thrown at it - except the Bible. But things get much worse when a prominent portrait of the house's original owner begins to change.
Revenge is at the heart of more than one story in the collection. In "The Squaw," an American visiting Nuremberg decides on a whim to "play" with a black cat and her kitten, and the kitten is killed in the course of the "game"; its mother gets even with the dim-witted man while he is "trying out" a deadly device within the Torture Tower. In "The Secret of the Growing Gold," a bitter relationship appears to end with an "accidental" death, but when the survivor returns from abroad with a young bride, he is haunted by a very physical reminder of his former lover.
Dracula's Guest can be split almost equally into two sections: the stories that are worth reading, and those that aren't. Yet even the moderately successful efforts are reminiscent of other, better writers: "The Judge's House" reads like something Hawthorne might have discarded; "The Secret of the Growing Gold" could be called a pale imitation of Poe.
The better tales are presented at the start of the collection; readers may want to shut the book before wading through the final five stories. "The Gipsy Prophecy" aspires to be a clever situation comedy but is hindered by an abundance of fortune-teller cliches. "The Coming of Abel Behenna" is a heavy-handed melodrama concluding with an overwhelmingly improbable - if not impossible - circumstance; Stoker seems to have written the entire thing for the sole purpose of employing the phrase "the doom of Cain."
Despite its promising title, "The Burial of the Rats" is a tedious account of an Englishman being chased by a gang of unsavory characters through a bad part of Paris. "A Dream of Red Hands" is an unexpected tale of redemption in which a murderer - albeit one who was defending a girl's honor - finds a way to "unbar the gates of Heaven." Finally, in "Crooken Sands," an Englishman buys property in Scotland and is terrified by visions of an identically-dressed "wraith"; the story is humorous, but its reliance upon ridiculous coincidences will elicit more groans than laughter.
Stoker truly earned his reputation as a clumsy writer; still, he often crossed the line into "so-bad-it's-good" fun. For an old-fashioned anthology filled with genre staples like murder, revenge, moonlit moors - and rats - you could do worse than pick up a copy of Dracula's Guest. After all, wouldn't it be satisfying to say that you've read something - anything - by Bram Stoker besides "Dracula"?
[NOTE: There are free versions of this book available for download from sources like Project Gutenberg and Manybooks.net.]
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