Audiobook Review: Dracula

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: DraculaDracula by Bram Stoker
Narrator: Alan Cumming, Graeme Malcolm, John Lee, Katherine Kellgren, Simon Vance, Steven Crossley, Susan Duerden, Tim Curry
Length: 15 hrs, 28 mins
Published by Audible on February 20, 2012
Genres: Horror, Paranormal
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher

Because of the widespread awareness of the story of the evil Transylvanian count and the success of numerous film adaptations that have been created over the years, the modern audience hasn't had a chance to truly appreciate the unknowing dread that readers would have felt when reading Bram Stoker's original 1897 manuscript. Most modern productions employ campiness or sound effects to try to bring back that gothic tension, but we've tried something different. By returning to Stoker's original storytelling structure - a series of letters and journal entries voiced by Jonathan Harker, Dr. Van Helsing, and other characters - with an all-star cast of narrators, we've sought to recapture its originally intended horror and power.

This production of Dracula is presented by what is possibly the best assemblage of narrating talent ever for one audiobook: Emmy Award nominees Alan Cumming and Tim Curry plus an all-star cast of Audie award-winners Simon Vance (The Millenium Trilogy), Katherine Kellgren (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), Susan Duerden (The Tiger's Wife), John Lee (Supergods) and customer favorites Graeme Malcolm (Skippy Dies), Steven Crossley (The Oxford Time Travel series), Simon Prebble (The Baroque Cycle), James Adams (Letters to a Young Contrarian), Nicola Barber (The Rose Garden), Victor Villar-Hauser (Fun Inc.), and Marc Vietor (1Q84). These stellar narrators have been cast as follows:

Dr. Seward: Alan Cumming
Jonathan Harker: Simon Vance
Mina Murray/Harker: Katy Kellgren
Lucy Westenra: Susan Duerden
Van Helsing: Tim Curry
Graeme Malcolm: Dailygraph correspondent
Steven Crossley: Zookeeper's account and reporter
Simon Prebble: Varna
James Adams: Patrick Hennessey
Nicola Barber: Sister Agatha
Victor Villar-Hauser: Arthur Holmwood
Marc Vietor: Quincey Morris
John Lee: Introductory paragraph, various letters

Were it not for audiobooks, I don’t think I’d have read any classics in the last two years. This is a great way to slowly slog through the ones you’ve been meaning to read just because, but don’t think you’ll like much. Dracula has been on my to-read list since middle school, but only because it’s a thing I felt I should read, not because I was especially interested. Thank you, audiobook, for making it so that I did not need to DNF!

For real, if I had been reading this in print format, I really do not think we would have been friends. The story goes by so slowly, the characters are flat, and there is very little action for a horror novel. Add to this the fact that pretty much ALL of pop culture is one big giant spoiler for the plot, and the book is insanely boring at most points.

Even worse, pop culture took all the good ideas out of Dracula and so, basically, what you’re left to be surprised by is all of the things pop culture changed so that the book could actually be interesting. Take, for example, Van Helsing and Dracula’s battle. I went in expecting this:

If that’s what you’re hoping for, let me just tell you that you’re WRONG. In fact, Van Helsing is an old, fat doctor with an absurd accent. Dracula is a tall, old man with a long white mustache. Umm, yuck, really? Sadly, ’tis true. The action in the book is more of the mental battle variety than anything else. They do a lot more talking than fighting.

Mental standoffs can be pretty cool though, characters trying to outmaneuver one another. I mean, that’s what made the first half of Death Note so freaking cool. Unfortunately, these characters are dumb. Certainly, knowing what’s happening going into the book, but even given that they’re working with no knowledge, their reasoning abilities are limited.

What really got to me was that, near the end, they’ve figured out what happened to Lucy Westenra, watched her become a vampire, and killed her. Now they’re searching for Dracula to kill him too. They decide that they need to do this without the cleverest of the bunch, Mina Harker, because ladies cannot handle this sort of thing, duh. They leave her alone and come back to find her weak, pale and tired, and it takes them freaking ages to think maybe Dracula has something to do with this, since these symptoms are remarkably similar to Lucy’s. Basically, everyone’s pathetic.

Speaking of Mina, she is by far the most interesting and clever character, but, because of the time period, she gets very little respect. I mean, yeah, the guys appreciate what a great typist she is and admire her intellect, but, ultimately, she’s more of a curiosity than a compatriot. They leave her out of things because she’s a woman, and view her most important role to be that of a shoulder to cry on, of feminine comfort, despite the fact that she’s the one who ultimately figures everything out. I know it’s a different time, but it still pisses me right the fuck off.

Oh, also supremely annoying? The infinite references to God. Seriously, every couple of minutes someone would intone “it’s in God’s hands.” At first it didn’t bother me, because that’s the kind of stupid shit people would say, and still do say, in crises. However, after the first fifty times, I pretty much wanted to start ripping people’s heads off every time it happened. I GOT it already: you’re all good Christians. Shut the fuck up, okay?

The only thing that made this book bearable for me was the fact that Audible did a wonderful job putting together the audio. They brought in a stellar cast, and really fit the voices to the characters. My favorite voice actors were Alan Cumming and Katherine Kellgren. Tim Curry does a good job, but he’s doing that stupid Van Helsing accent, so I couldn’t love his performance as much.

Even with the marvelous audio work, this still only came out to a meh for me. I highly recommend the audio version, whether you think you’ll like the book or not.

19 responses to “Audiobook Review: Dracula”

  1. Oh yeah, I’ve tried reading this a few times and wasn’t a huge fan, either. Audio would probably make it a little more entertaining, but…only a little, hah.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, I expected to love this, but, wow, that’s not super compelling story telling. Being old does not excuse that, because I love plenty of classics.

  2. I unlike you can’t stand the audiobooks. I dunno always get distracted 🙂 I’m glad you can enjoy them. And for this book I haven’t read it but it doesn’t sound like something I’d love.

    • Christina says:

      That happens to me sometimes too. Some audiobooks are really hard to focus on, and some are really easy. This one was somewhere in the middle for me.

  3. I have never read an audio book. Wait… scratch that. I listened to Go the Fuck to Sleep. LOL. Even still, I’m not sure I could stomach the sexism. This is one reason why I’m picky with classics. Like you, I get that the time period was different, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

    • Christina says:

      Ha, audiobooks are definitely an acquired taste. I really didn’t like them much until recently. The trick is to DNF with alacrity if the narration doesn’t work for you.

      Ugh, yes. There are classics that don’t make me want to punch everything. Just a slightly more balanced portrayal of women, and I would let the inherent sexism slide.

  4. Kat Balcombe says:

    Oh look, another classic I haven’t read! What a pleb.

    I might have to try this one on audio though, because the chances of me reading it are so small – and old-fashioned sexism does not make it okay!

    • Christina says:

      Haha, at least you’re working on P&P, right?

      Audios do help for the classics! There tends to be at least one good version, and they can breathe life into some of the less inspired ones.

  5. I’m not usually an audiobook fan, but I might give this one a try. I don’t think I’d ever get around to reading it, for the same reasons you state about the pop culture spoilers and lack of action, but this version might tempt me. Thanks for the review!

  6. Giselle says:

    ooh I love Bram Stoker’s Dracula but only in concept and the movies! Lol. I’m am the worse for classics, I just don’t get them. I tried to read Jane Eyre and a few others but MAN they are just too much. I don’t foresee myself reading this one ever! Lol I’m already annoyed by the patheticness (I’d call it more like.. stupidity?) of the characters.

    Hours of your life you will never get back! I hope you cleaned or something while listening at least.

    • Christina says:

      Ha, I don’t blame you in this case at all, Giselle! I really like some classics, as I think you know, but they’re generally much slower-paced and can be quite trying to action-oriented readers.

      I do usually clean or eat dinner or something while I listen.

  7. I agree with you. Guess who attempted to read the text for this, got bored, and DNFd? THIS GIRL. Glad I didn’t miss much, it seems. And it started off with such a bang too!

  8. OH MAN! I actually really liked Dracula and this is the version that I listened to, but I totally get why it wasn’t your thing because yeah dude Mina is the bomb and they’re all poor delicate Mina, when she could probably Buffy-up.

    ALSO! Katherine Kellgren is the best forever and ever and ever amen. You should listen to Bloody Jack, that audiobook is AMAZE! <3

    • Christina says:

      You can only imagine how much I wouldn’t have liked it if I’d not had this super awesome audio version! lol. Mina is so the best person in the story but sexism and wahhhh.

      I totes want to listen to that. My library totally has them, so it will happen. First up: Bossypants.

  9. I’m actually really glad you gave this a lower rating. I know some people are afraid of saying anything against the classics and I think it’s silly. When I first read Dracula, I went into it with high expectations and I was so disappointed. I felt like the whole novel was building to a climax that it never reached. It was SO FRUSTRATING. Anyways, thank you again for this honest review. It’s a breath of fresh air.

  10. I absolutely LOVE Stoker’s Dracula. But it’s also the first horror novel I ever read and I was already steeped in classical literature at the time. (English teacher mom…) Jane Eyre is my all-time favorite book, if that tells you something.

    That being said, the book is over a 100 years old and times have drastically changed. Mina’s role was actually quite progressive for that time and she remains one of my favorite literary heroines.

    Sadly, I don’t think the novel ages well and if you don’t have a keen interest in gothic horror or that particular time frame, it’s not going to be an enjoyable read.

    I actually prefer Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu, which predates Dracula. The lesbian subtext and really intriguing FEMALE vampire are pretty awesome.

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