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Despite the many film adaptations of Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) and the many movies and TV shows influenced by it, I found the original novel to be surprisingly absorbing, suspenseful, frightening, and even moving. One of the many interesting points about the book is the way in which Stoker tells the story through a series of "real" letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, memoranda, and telegrams written, dictated, and compiled by the main eyewitness characters (except for the Count). Stoker's novel provides thought-provoking perspectives on marriage, gender, sexuality, class, community, culture, and religion. And it established numerous Vampire genre rules, like aristocratic lineage, lack of reflections, superhuman strength and speed, undead immortality, shapeshifting and beast manipulating, intimidating cunning and cruelty mitigated by criminal "child brain," and charismatic sensuality.
The readers of the audiobook, Greg Wise and Saskia Reeves, add so much to Dracula. Wise reads the documents "written" by men, Reeves those by women. Both Wise and Reeves have appealing educated British accents for their base narrators (Jonathan Harker, Mina Harker John Seward), and are adept at changing their voices to suit the various people of different ages, regions, and countries whom the narrators quote in their letters and diaries. This means that one moment we are hearing a man, Wise, reading things that Mina says in Jonathan's journal and the next a woman, Reeves, reading things that Jonathan says in Mina's. But so skilled, sensitive, and restrained are Wise and Reeves that hearing them both doing, say, Dr. Van Helsing's thick Dutch accent enhanced the pleasure of the audiobook.
Having experienced many of the plethora of vampire-themed works of popular culture, I did at times hear the joints of their granddaddy creak. I sometimes found myself muttering, "Pay attention to the peasants, Harker!" Or "Quincey Morris is a little too 'American.'" Or "Come on guys--you know that Dracula's been setting up housekeeping right next door and that Mina's at least as intelligent and brave as a man and yet to spare her from trauma you exclude her from your counsels and leave her alone at night without placing any garlic flowers or crosses around her bed?"
But more often I thought things like, "Gee, I want one of those twelve inch, nail studded, Slovak leather belts," or "Hey, that's a great description of the gloomy mountains at sunset," or "Yow, Dracula's brides are kinda sexy," or "The count crawling head first down his castle wall like a lizard is sure creepy," or "Wow--Renfield is morbidly unforgettable," or "If Arthur is married 'in the sight of God' to Lucy by giving his blood to her, what is Dracula to Lucy after drinking her blood?" or "This climax in the snow-swirling, wolf-howling, gypsy-fleeing, party-converging mountains is exciting!"
So if you like the vampire or supernatural romance or fantastic adventure genres, it would be worth your while to read this imaginative and well-written novel.
I recently undertook the personal challenge to listen to five different versions of DRACULA because listening to Bram Stoker’s classic years ago made me a fan of audiobooks. I enjoyed that experience so much that I decided to try to determine if I had just gotten lucky or if there was an even better version available. Besides, I wanted to listen to it again. With most books I feel fortunate to have just one audio version available, but with DRACULA there are so many versions offered that listening to them all is not practical. I first figured that I could handle maybe three different versions but then discovered two more that I thought deserved attention. The Audible list had these five that I thought might be contenders:
Listed in my order of listening preference: 1) Susan Adams & Alexander Spencer (Recorded Books 1980) 2) Peter Sciarrio & Kris Faulkner & a FULL CAST, (Books in Motion 2008) 3) Greg Wise & Saskia Reeves (BBC Audiobooks 2008) 4) Robert Whitfield (aka Simon Vance), (Blackstone edition 1998) 5) Alan Cumming & Tim Curry & cast (Audible edition 2011)
Review of this version:
3) Greg Wise (m) Saskia Reeves (f), BBC Audiobooks 2008 [run time 18:24],
Of all the actors displaying their talents in narrating DRACULA, Greg Wise is the best single overall performer. At times his well-modulated voice fooled me into thinking that I was hearing several actors doing the different character voices. He has more range than any other single actor and more variety in his one voice box than the entire male cast of the Audible edition. One of my favorite scenes came early in the novel. It was when Jonathan Harker is riding in a coach that is overtaken by another coach driven by Count Dracula himself. Greg Wise delivers the line, “My horses are swift,” as if the word was “svvift.” This was my first indication that Wise was going to be great. In chapter 18, Wise doing Renfield is amazing! He brings out his intellectual craziness! Had Wise's partner, Saskia Reeves, been more exuberant, this would have been the best overall version. Sadly Reeves gave a less than energetic performance in places and caused me to give this Wise & Reeves version a third place ranking. Reeves chose to play Mina Harker with a touch of warm lethargy that never seems to match the dialog or the image one gets of an energetic, and even high-strung, brilliant young woman, depicted in the text.
TECHNICAL NOTES Chapter stops every 102-116 minutes do not match book chapters. No text duplications or omissions! Very good sound quality. High production values. 12:16:20 Mispronunciation of “sentience.” (as SEN-t-ence)
Follows the text of THE ANNOTATED DRACULA (TAD) Examples: 1:43:24 “Occupied in bygone days,” (TAD p. 38.1) 2:28:59 “To-morrow night, to-morrow night is yours.” (TAD p. 53.5)