Wednesday, February 16, 2011

iDrakula – review

Author: Bekka Black

Release date: 2010

Contains spoilers

As we all know, I trust, Dracula was an epistolary novel. The text was made up of diaries, telegrams, newspaper clippings and letters. Had the technology been around, Stoker would most likely have made use of text messages and e-mails – the novel highlights the author's love of technology.

iDrakula is a reimagining of Dracula, set in the US and Romania and uses e-mails, text messages and web browsing to tell the story. The question is, does it work and was it worth doing?

To take the second part of that first. Yes, I think it probably was worth doing as a concept. The story is changed, characters dropped or reimagined, relationships are unrecognisable from the original but it might bring a new audience through to Stoker’s novel, an audience for whom the language of text messaging is natural. Character changes are not always welcome but as this was a complete reimagining I understood that the young adult audience just might not get the characters as originally drawn and, also, those original characters do not necessarily transpose to our modern world.

That starts to answer the first part of the question, which is more difficult to pin down. I must first explain that book format is perhaps not the natural form this should take. The project was also devised as an iPhone app, through which you would open up texts and mails (and get voice mails also). Unfortunately the app is not available in the UK at the time of review. In book format we get, essentially, a quick read and I found it – due to the text mail format – a very different reading experience to standard prose and even to a more traditionally composed epistolary novel. Texts are not going to have the detail of a letter – let’s face it neither is an e-mail more often than not. It worked, but I thought, perhaps, that my knowledge of the original helped me piece in detail gaps (despite the differences).

The lore has changed. Bekka Black has balanced the sunlight aspects (Stoker allowing his vampires access to the daytime, the movies not) by suggesting that the older vampires can stand sunlight that will destroy newer vampires. The victims are diagnosed as suffering from idiopathic autoimmune hemolytic anemia, there is mention (by Romanian nuns) of removing the taint – this was not expanded on and I would have liked more detail but again this is a problem with the format. A missed opportunity (from Stoker’s notes and not the novel) was in respect of photography. Given there are picture attachments in the book a failed attempt to photograph the Count, or even a phantasmal shot that revealed more than the human eye might see, may have been interesting.

All in all I think that this was worthwhile, I was surprised that the text speak worked (I’m not a big fan of text speak generally) and if it draws a new audience into the genre, who then look at the sources of the genre, then it is no bad thing. It did feel sparse and many may complain about that but it was no more sparse than some of the illustrated or comic versions of the story devised for the same age level of target audience. I think, however, that the format of the text message made such sparseness necessary. Did we know the characters? Not really but perhaps that is the transience of the social network generation? Some of the more obvious jokes – for instance, a search engine called Ask Vlad – were a little corny but the substance remained serious. All that said, I think it would actually work much better as an app – I understand the app slow drips you the story over a period of time or you can race through the app without the gaps. 6 out of 10, with a health warning that this is a score that takes the target audience into account.

No comments: