Monday, October 22, 2012

Dracula by Bram Stoker

This is the story of good versus evil.

It starts out quite simply enough - you hear of a man who was made to go to an obscure castle in an obscure land. He seems excited and quite jolly, all the while fondly remembering his lovely bride-to-be. A few letters later, however, he relates of the people whispering about an "evil one" and how they seem to pity him for his choice of destination.

For he is off to the castle of Dracula. Dracula, an unseen, unheard being, whose terrible ubiquity has brought fear into the hearts of the people -- as it may to yours as well.

If you've read modern vampire stories before reading this one (especially romance-related ones), prepare to set your expectations regarding them aside. Dracula will remind you of the "true original", and make you remember the beast behind the fangs.

This story, while relating of horrific events, did not strike me as utterly "scary". There are intelligent (not to mention valiant) men in this picture, and they help bring reason (and courage!) to such a superstitious story. Oh, and there's the lovely Mina too - she seems to me the epitome of what a woman/wife should be :)

The story-telling here is via letters, news clippings, transcripts, etc, and I find it very interesting that, as the story progresses, we find out why and how the book came to being. (Well, sort of.)

The people whose words helped shape this story are, in their own little ways, unique - and utterly human. How devastating it was to hear of poor Lucy's belabored breaths. How surprising it was to see Abraham Van Helsing allow himself moments of weakness. How romantic it was that Lord Goddaming did what he had to do to set her free. It was really quite amazing how these people persevered in attempting to destroy the evil that has plagued such land.

Still, while these souls were brave enough to attempt silencing the evil spirit, they were also lost, scared and faltered every now & then. I loved that they were very real to me. (It helps that we get snippets from their own respective diaries!) I even liked how Van Helsing remarked of Dracula that... [he was somewhat like a child, and although he was known to be incredibly smart while he was still walking the earth as a living man, his wisdom had not yet then fully developed.] (highlight for spoilers) Even a dark lord here has a twinge of reality in him!

There is indeed talk of "devils" and that of "holy". It doesn't exactly mean that this is religious (although there is constant reference to "His guiding power" or "His blessing"), but it did help in propagating the vileness of an "unclean spirit".

One point rather annoyed me, however: [Why did they stay in the Seward's house when they knew that Dracula had ready access to his dwelling? Couldn't they have thought of what it could mean for poor Mina?] (highlight for spoilers)

Overall, it was an exciting read, especially with its creeps, fog and trickles of blood. It really left me quite breathless. There's a note of joy to be found in the ending pages, by the way, but I had wondered whether Dracula might still actually out there somehow... Biding his time until he finds his next dark abode.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

BOOM by Michael Whetzel

We all have that something that just ticks us off. It could be bullying bosses, unattainable prospective lovers or lousy neighbors. Have you ever thought, however, about what would happen in case we allow all that anger to manifest and allow it to go BOOM?

This is a story of a man who is fed up with all the daily annoyances of his life. He has an education, he has interests & talents, and he is nice & congenial. For some reason, however, his life turns out in such a way that he is almost a walking time bomb due to how he's constantly ticked by how people (and life) treated him. [We would then come across the crazy rampage of a man who suddenly has the power that most of us probably desire, so we could finally get rid of those irritations.] (highlight for spoilers)

What interested me most about this short story is the fact that there seems to be a supernatural vibe here, but it comes across as rather, well, natural --- that is to say real. The line between fantasy and reality has been so cleverly blurred.

The story-telling is superb, too. (I enjoyed Whetzel's The Pied Piper of the Undead, and this story, while different in character, was still as interesting and well-written as the other.) There's gore here, but it somehow comes as a matter of consequence for poor Jeffrey.

Oh, and I love that last sentence, and how it seems to tie up the entire story. Will this have a sequeal? I'd clamor for it, if only to know what happened to the two principal characters of this novelette :D

This story, I believe, is somewhat an outlet for the author for the things we would love to change, but can't. (As a matter of fact, the author leaves a little note at the end saying something just like this.) It also reminded me of Alanguilan's Wasted :)

All in all, great show.

BOOM by Michael Whetzel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

Venus in Furs
This book is not exactly pornographic in nature, but I could say that it may be classified as erotica. It also has a dash of intellect, although I felt as if the entire BDSM thing was brushed off as a deviance in the end.

Because yes, this is a book about bondage / discipline / dominance / submission / sadism / masochism.

This book was written by (what I'd imagine to be) a smart man, using a rather intellectual way of writing. Sure, it's about a rather known-to-be-deviant subject, but he does it in such a rational and broad-minded way.

Indeed, the topic (BDSM) is something most people would consider odd. His characters themselves think it's odd, but you are led to understand that some behaviors may have stemmed from deep-rooted sources. You are led to understand that there are people out there with slightly different sources of pleasure. You are led to understand that as odd as it can be, that's just how some people work. (In this instance, there's a possibility of cure, but why cure something that may not exactly be bad, only misunderstood, in the first place?)

The plot is so-so, but I really stayed on this because I found the psychological look into the matter quite fascinating. I was surprised at the pseudo-dominatrix and how she acted about her slave. I was awed at how the sub would cry in anger but love in delight. I was shocked by the deserved (?) ill-treatment of the slave at the very end.

I was rather sad to see the book end so fast, but I was rather disappointed that it ended up almost saying that enjoying the BDSM thing is something an ass would do. I'm not sure how modern society will take this, but I'd guess that the more conservative people will be shocked by the thought, the more liberal will be angered by the seeming misconception, and the open-minded ones will shrug indifferently.

I liked the psychology in it. I thought it was a quick read. There isn't much graphic sexy time here. I was disappointed by the ending.

Oh, and I tried to look for a photo of the Venus in Furs painting that is described in the book. I think that this photo does it the most justice. (Pro-tip: A lot of NSFW pics come up if you search "venus in furs" in Google images >->)

Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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