Saturday, January 06, 2007

Little Book of Horror: Dracula – review

Author: Steve Niles

Illustrator: Richard Salsa

First Published: 2005

Contains spoilers

The Little Book of Horror series by Steve Niles, author of the 30 days of night series, are richly illustrated short hardback volumes of classic horror tales. In these the pages are awash with illustration matched with prose excerpts of the original text, allegedly.

I say allegedly because the text does not show any similarity with Stoker’s in style (Niles wrote the prose) although, to be fair, whilst the descriptions online mention excerpts from the original text, the back of the book is less specific saying that Niles worked from the original text. In this it is even less similar to the original as, content wise, this is far from the Dracula I know and love. I do not recall skeletal horses drawing John (sic) Harker’s coach. I don’t recall Harker cutting his hand at the first meal he shares with Dracula, that was first seen in Nosferatu. Mina’s father wasn’t in the original book, he did not call in Van Helsing – the (missing from this) Seward did; for Lucy, incidentally, not Mina. These are not the only differences, each page veers far from Stoker.

The story owes more to a mismatch of the various film productions than it does to Stoker. What we actually have here is very light prose and incredibly simplified story set at the level of children’s literature – which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, children should be encouraged to discover the joys of vampires one might argue, it just isn’t what we are lead to believe. I’d have been a lot more forgiving if it had been touted as a version for children.

For an adult the book proves a very quick read, if it takes more than five minutes I’d be surprised. The joy of the volume lies not in the prose but in Salsa’s illustrations. Vividly coloured and yet not particularly gory, they do contain a wonderfully macabre element though, again, they are in a style one would expect from an illustrated children’s volume. My particular favourite was of Harker faced with Dracula and the vampire brides.

I came across an official statement by IDW (the publisher): “Forget Christopher Lee. Forget Gary Oldman. Hell, forget Leslie Nielson, too (please),” said IDW’s Editor-in-Chief, Chris Ryall. “Once you see the gothic beauty of Richard Sala’s line art in this book, you’re (sic) realize that his is the definitive take on Stoker’s Dracula.”

The illustrations are good but I wouldn’t go that far, not by a long shot. In short, not a bad purchase if you are a genre collector or if you have a child who might enjoy the book, but certainly not Nile’s best release and more use as a curio. A score of 5 out of 10 reflects the fact that it might prove a nice little kid’s story book and the illustrations are lovely.

No comments: