Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dracula vs. Frankenstein

Just finished Frankenstein the other night. Combined with Dracula, I've now successfully caught up on two classic, must-read sci-fi/fantasy novels. Both were good, but after much thought, I'm giving the nod to Dracula.

What tipped the balance?

Monster Characters (tie score): Both monsters are terrific. Deviously intelligent, immensely strong, and as agile as any professional athlete, both are more than a match for any mortal man. Frankenstein's monster was intelligent and agile? That was a surprise. I was used to the movie monster with big shoes and a square head. No so in the novel. Like Dracula, he is able to climb sheer cliffs, and Frankenstein's monster also easily dashes across an Alpine glacier. FM (he is never named) is also well-read and an eloquent speaker. In fact, of the two, FM is the more devious. Dracula gets props for special powers: assuming the form of mist, wolf, and bat, and of course, sucking blood and creating more vampires.

Human Characters (Frankenstein wins): Ugh, the male protagonists of Dracula were uniformly brave, just, intelligent, considerate, blah, blah, blah. Not a flaw amongst them. The were all the best examples of Victorian Manhood. Lucy and Mina were wonderful, supportive wives, and helpless victims. Victor Frankenstein on the other hand, was a deeply flawed and much more realistic person. I didn't especially like him, but he was a far superior character.

Story (tie score): Both were creative, original stories. Dracula follows the human protagonists as they struggle to save Lucy, Mina, (and all of England) from the supernatural power of the vampire. Frankenstein is the more personal story of Victor Frankenstein and his tragic life following the creation of his monster. Frankenstein also gives you much more insight into the monster's personal story.

Believability (Dracula wins): When it comes to the willing suspension of disbelief, it isn't even close. Frankenstein just had too many holes. One of the worst examples: FM spends months secretly living in an unused room, spying on a French emigre family living in Switzerland. Although FM gathers wood for the family every night (much to their surprise), they somehow never see his footprints in the snow. And although this giant of a man lives just a few feet from them, they never hear a sound. Too much to believe.

Engagement (Dracula wins): I couldn't stop reading Dracula. Even though it didn't have the pace of a modern novel, it was still a page-turner. Frankenstein...just...dragged...on...and...on. Page after page of exposition. Page after page of Victor Frankenstein having yet another emotional breakdown. Long, long sections of back-story that weren't even needed.

Overall I'd give Frankenstein a good rating of 3/5 stars and Dracula a very good rating of 4/5.

Last post I asked if any of you knew how Dracula died. Bram Stoker went into great depth explaining how a vampire could be killed. It required a stake through the heart, decapitation, and stuffing garlic in the vampire's mouth. This is how Lucy and the three Brides of Dracula are slain. Dracula however, has his throat slashed by an English lawyer wielding a Nepalese Kukri knife before being stabbed in the heart by a Texan wielding a Bowie knife. Didn't see that coming, did you? Hrm...why kill Dracula this way after putting so much effort into describing the proper way of killing a vampire? Smells like the makings of a sequel to me.

So how did Frankenstein's Monster meet his end? And where did it happen? No peeking.

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