Audiobook Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker (Audible Edition)

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Title: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
Length: 15 hours and 28 minutes
Release Date: February 20, 2012
Publisher: Audible Studios
Genre: Horror

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:

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

— From Audible.com

As per my usual Halloween tradition, I sat down last week with a volume of Dracula to get in the mood for the festivities. This year, however, I decided to accompany the written word with an award-winning production from Audible. I’ve been very curious about their so-called “all-star cast” for a while, and after seeing so many familiar names, there was very little convincing to do. And so my armchair journey to Transylvania began once again.

I have to admit straight away that this must be the best Dracula audiobook I’ve listened to yet. The diverse cast truly works when you have a novel consisting of letters, telegrams, and newspaper reports by so many characters. I was especially pleased with Tim Curry’s performance, and that of Alan Cumming. I have to say, Alan really changed my view of Dr. Seward. I don’t know why I’ve always imagined him as a middle-aged, graying man, even when Lucy Westenra clearly states that he is only 29 (or thereabouts). Hearing his character come to life through Cumming, though, really placed Dr. Seward at the frontier of the action. I must say, after Van Helsing, he is probably the most prominent character, and I have never noticed that until I started listening to the Audible production.

My only criticism is not that important, but it bugged me enough to leave an impression. I really wish the voice actors could agree on Professor Van Helsing’s accent. Because he speaks through different letters as interpreted by many other characters, his monologues are often read by different actors. Some stressed his foreign-ness through exaggerated accents, and some almost never modified their normal speech, which created jarring inconsistency. You could almost hear three distinct Van Helsings in this book. Perhaps this could have been avoided if Tim Curry interjected other actors’ narration when it was time for Van Helsing to speak. Perhaps the alternating accents are just a result of various characters trying to imitate their friend, so the inconsistency is justifiable. It’s hard to say. I know it interrupted the natural flow for me and left the Dutch professor somewhat lacking clarity.

As to the story itself, there really is no need for much commentary. It’s a classic for a reason. I feel like I fall in love with Dracula more and more with each additional read. But it is thanks to the Audible production and to the masterful work of so many great actors, that this timeless book became even more dear to my heart. I know I will listen to it again next year.

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