Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Dracula Tape by Fred Saberhagen

The Dracula Tape(written in August 1995)
Just finished re-reading Fred Saberhagen's The Dracula Tape. Much ado has been made recently over Anne Rice's innovative approach to the vampire as protagonist, but I recall several short stories that predated her Interview and this book, copyright 1975, not only was printed earlier, but also features the definitive vampiric hero, Count Vlad Dracula himself. It is a retelling, from Vlad's POV, of the classic novel by Bram Stoker that started it all back in 1897.

The premise is that a cassette tape is found in the back seat of a vehicle abandoned in a snowstorm by a young couple whose last name is Harker. On the tape, the voice of the dread Count sets the record straight regarding the events recorded by Bram Stoker. The young couple are the direct descendents of his beloved Mina, who married Jonathan Harker, as serious Dracula students will recall.

According to Dracula, the horrifying events that drove Jonathan Harker to a nervous breakdown on his visit to Dracula's castle in Bulgaria, were merely a series of misunderstandings. The whispered tauntings of Dracula's female vampiric companions were due to his preoccupation with business matters involved in purchasing property in England, which kept him from exercising more control over their rather sadistic playfulness.

The cries of a child from a burlap sack were actually those of a young pig that, after being drained of blood for Vlad and the ladies, went to provide Harker himself with roast pork during his stay. The mother who cried out to Dracula to return her child to her was merely appealing to him as lord of the manor for help, and after he sent his servants to find the missing child and return it, she didn't come around to wail her gratitude.

Yes, he was having an affair with Lucy, and later Mina, and during the course of their lovemaking he sipped of their blood, but he maintains that neither was drained to the point of danger. What self respecting vampire, (or any other parasite) survives over the long term by killing its host? He characterizes Van Helsing as an egomaniacal bumbler, who causes Lucy's death by transfusing her with the blood of four different people, ten years before the concept of blood typing was known. She died because her body rejected the alien blood types they kept pumping into her veins. She wasn't really ill in the first place, merely lovesick and tired from being kept up all night at amorous play.

The Count goes on to describe the way that he, with the consent and cooperation of his beloved Mina, set the stage for a final encounter with Van Helsing wherein the foolish doctor and his lackeys are convinced that Dracula has been vanquished forever. After all, mortal lives are short and he can wait for Mina to join him in undeath one day.

I re-read this one because I had run into an old friend from my thespian days, a drama professor in my hometown, who had recently directed a Halloween production of Dracula. I told her that she ought to read Saberhagen's version of the tale, and then spent a year or so looking for a copy to send her, as I couldn't bear to part with my own. Anyway, now that I've done this review, I can mail her a copy, which may place an interesting interpretation on her next production of the play. (By the way, Stephanie, if you read this, you could ask your Mom if she still has the book, and I'd be happy to pick it up next time I'm in Lewiston.)

This book by Saberhagen is the start of a series about Count Vlad Dracula, which is continued in The Holmes Dracula File, An Old Friend of the Family, Thorn, A Matter of Taste, and A Question of Time. It seems there is another out on the new bookstore shelves, but I can't recall the name of it right now. He also wrote The Frankenstein Papers, which is the same sort of deal with Shelley's novel, but I didn't find it nearly so entertaining.


Joan SS said...

Nice review. A COLDNESS IN THE BLOOD is the dracula title your missing. All the best. -- Joan Saberhagen

Joan SS said...

Nice review. A COLDNESS IN THE BLOOD is the dracula title your missing. All the best. -- Joan Saberhagen