Thursday, December 30, 2021

Dracula (Audible edition) by Bram Stoker

As part of my continued campaign to revisit classics, I chose to dip into this perennial Gothic favourite by giving the Audible edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula a spin. Then again, who can go wrong with this wonderful cast, including Alan Cummings, Tim Curry, and the late veteran audiobook reader Katy Kellgren, among others. 

I think it's safe to say that most of us have seen the movies and series inspired by Stoker's work, but so far few of them have been able to capture the depth and breadth of the source material. I first read Dracula in high school, and I admit freely that many of the subtler undercurrents went way over my head. Also, having just gone through Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and with the work fresh in my mind, I can compare these two classics within the Gothic genre better. Each is quite a different beast, and while there is, in my opinion, more emotional and philosophical weight to Shelley's writing, there is, nonetheless, an astonishing attention to detail in Stoker's work.

Perhaps what makes this edition all the more special is the way that it cleaves to its epistolary nature by employing different readers to take on the letters and diary entries of the characters, imbuing each with their particular flavour and tone. In that way, Audible Studios has done well in their creative decisions. It's easy to close your eyes and sink into the narrative as the setting becomes fully tactile. 

Dracula is very much a product of its time, in which women are placed upon a delicate pedestal, and yet, if one is able to look deeper, it becomes apparent that Mina Harker is indeed one of the more heroic characters within this story. Her resilience and ingenuity is easily overlooked by Jonathan, Van Helsing and the others, and yet without her capable, stalwart assistance, I'm certain they would never have overcome the great evil that nearly overwhelmed them. The fact that they sought to shelter her from the dangers posed by the count nearly proved their undoing. 

This edition is slick, eminently listenable, and if you've yet to hit up the source material behind so much of our modern horror media, I highly recommend this audiobook.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Ancestral by Charlie Human

Charlie Human brings readers stories with bite, action-packed while still poking sticks at aspects of South African society and the world at large with a flash of the absurd – and Ancestral is no different. If you're looking for a tale with a slowly unfolding pace, then this one is not for you. We are dropped right in the middle of the action, with erstwhile soldier Clementine Khoza on a mission to retrieve her kidnapped son, Drew.

But this is no straightforward retrieval quest. The world in which Clementine immerses herself is dark and dysfunctional, the once-utopian, exclusive gated neighbourhood of Welcome Shade – now overrun by gangs. Not the kind of territory for the faint of heart. But then again, Clementine is a hard woman, made so by the upbringing of her strict Zulu grandfather who taught her the martial art of stick-fighting and the years of conflict in which she has been embroiled over the years.

As she travels further into uncertain, dangerous territory, she uncovers a far more sinister threat to mankind that is inextricably linked to her very blood and heritage, and she teams up with unlikely, unasked-for allies without whom she would not stand a gnat's chance in a windstorm for survival. Whether she likes it or not (and trust me, she doesn't) Clementine is a chosen one – a last bastion of hope for our species.

All in all, this is a fast-paced read – so much so that I sometimes felt the writing was a little rushed in places and could have used a little more depth. But then this might be down to my own personal preference, so if you disagree, don't mind me. There were moments where I wondered exactly how long a drone's batteries can last after heavy use without a recharge, but I won't spoil the story by worrying overly much about these sorts of details. 

I do think this is the sort of tale that will no doubt appeal to folks who enjoy a good manga. Ancestral is fun, charges along at a breakneck pace, and offers a roller coaster ride of one untenable situation to the next, garnished with a healthy dollop of cosmic, insectoid horror.