Let me just start by saying how refreshing this book felt in our era of glittery sparkling vampires, synthetic blood and "coming out of the coffin". In the preface of this Penguin Classics edition of Dracula, Bram Stoker lists characteristics of a vampire:
'power of creating evil thoughts or banishing good ones in others present'
'goes through fog by instinct' and 'can see in the dark'
'insensibility to music'
'Painters cannot paint him. His likeness always like someone else'
'could not Codak [photograph] him - comes out black of like skeleton corpse'
'No looking glasses in Count's house - never can see his reflection in one - no shadow?'
'never eats nor drinks'
I think it would do good for some modern authors to go re-view the roots of vampire literature.
On to the book though, I don't suppose the plot needs much introduction, as this is a very famous, well-known story. It is an epistolary novel - never a bad thing. Actually, I don't think the epistolary format was executed to the perfection because the voices of different narrators, who wrote their personal diaries of the events, did not come out as particularly recognisable; at some point they tended to melt into one big mass and I had to re-check who was narrating.
In the same vein, the characters generally were not super extinguishable and different from each other, it was more like "the good" against "the bad" Count Dracula. Portrayal of Dracula himself I found fascinating in this book, as he does make quite powerful appearances early on (t'is some truly spooky stuff there), but he is never really viewed too closely, which can probably lead to some people feeling that there is not enough Dracula in the book. I am not one of those readers, as I feel we are given quite a good picture from the perspective of Van Helsing and others; it's not like they get into a fist fight with Dracula right away, he is more like this subtle, hidden terror, which I think is even scarier than something full on, because since it's a bit hidden, a lot of the fear itself comes from recipient's emotions.
Portrayal of Van Helsing made me chuckle, truly - originally he is not your young handsome stud kinda dude; he is described by Mina Harker as "a man of medium height, strongly built, with his shoulders set back over a broad, deep chest and a neck well balanced on the trunk as the head is on the neck" and even though his exact age is not indicated, he cannot be in his early youth because he has a deceased son and a long career behind him. Let me also note the fact that by far the most irritating text in the book comes out of his mouth - half patronising and flowery, and the fact that he just seems to keep talking. I found it highly amusing that the famous vampire hunter is really a tad annoying.
Mina Harker has all the makings for a kick-ass heroine, if only she wasn't controlled by the straps of her time. There was a scene particularly ironic, where the menfolk felt the need to "protect" Mina, and what resulted from this - you probably know what I am talking about if you have read the book.
I think the end of the book/culmination has likely triggered many a controversial opinions and, as a modern reader, I can see why. However, since I was fully immersed to the ways of that particular time while reading Dracula, the ending was not anticlimactic for me; if anything it felt like a natural course of things and something more out of "the realm of real possibilities" rather than "just another movie sequence".
All in all, I was thoroughly entertained while reading Dracula, and I am very happy that I've finally finished this piece of cult literature.