The Dracula Tape

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A 1975 novel by Fred Saberhagen, which offers an alternative perspective on the horror novel Dracula. Specifically, it hinges on a fact about the earlier work that is both glaringly obvious and yet easily missed; that while the earlier novel uses the diary entries, writings and witness testimony of almost all of the participants and witnesses to the battle between Van Helsing and his allies and the evil Count Dracula in order to provide a full account of what happened, one particular perspective has been notably omitted -- that of Count Dracula himself.

The Dracula Tape involves Dracula, several decades after this conflict, deciding to finally address this imbalance -- specifically, by hijacking the car of the descendants of the Harkers, his old enemies, and by recording his memoirs of the event in question into their tape recorder. Dracula's account begins with him, having tired of life in a crumbling castle hidden in the wilds of Transylvania surrounded both by irritatingly backwards and superstitious peasants and a trio of insufferable vampire brides, deciding to break his centuries of self-imposed exile and reintroduce himself into human society. Hoping to find more enlightened, pleasant and welcoming company in London, he employs Jonathan Harker, a young British solicitor, to purchase him a British residence, and tries to both make Harker welcome in his castle and gently guide him into knowledge of the existence of vampires.

Unfortunately, a series of misunderstandings work to negatively colour Harker's impressions of Dracula, leading to a chain of circumstances that results in Dracula's subsequent arrival in Britain going... a bit pear-shaped. As Dracula tries to cope with the increasing number of enemies he somehow seems to be making, among them obsessive vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing and Harker's quick-witted and attractive wife Mina, it soon becomes apparent that there was more -- a lot more -- going on that Stoker's novel recorded, that there were several misunderstandings colouring events, and that Dracula might not be the Complete Monster he's been depicted as all this time after all...

The novel was the first in a lengthy series of novels featuring Saberhagen's interpretation of Dracula and other likewise more-or-less-positively depicted vampires. The second in the series was The Holmes-Dracula File, in which Dracula finds himself encountering... well, you can probably guess.


Tropes used in The Dracula Tape include:
  • AB Negative: Turns out, it wasn't the vampire killing Lucy Westenra.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Invoked on Dracula and the other characters in the novel.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Played with; the introduction of the novel reveals that the events of the novel are transcribed from a tape found within an abandoned car, the occupants nowhere to be found... but then reveals that the occupants are recovering from their experiences in a hospital. It's an early clue that Dracula, while not exactly a nice guy, isn't the monster he's been presented as.
  • Badass Decay: Invoked, for comedic purposes: Dracula insists that he's not a bad guy and that everyone else was merely deluded or misled as to his intentions.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The original novel's tendency towards these is parodied, with Dracula noting with increasing exasperation how a chain of coincidences seems to be building up around him -- not least the fact that everyone he meets in Britain is somehow connected to Jonathan Harker.
  • Emergency Transformation: Dracula is forced to do this with Lucy Westenra after Van Helsing's 'treatment'.
  • External Retcon: The novel suggests that numerous elements of the original novel were misunderstandings or even outright fabrications.
  • Faking the Dead: The confrontation at the end of the original book was staged to convince Van Helsing that Dracula was gone for good in a way that would keep him from turning his attentions toward Mina.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The fact that Dracula is clearly established to be narrating his tale several decades after the events of the original novel immediately suggests that, unlike the original, survives the final battle at the end.
  • Go Out with a Smile: The original novel's use of this is cynically lampshaded by Dracula, who points out that few things must look as peaceful and relaxing to a bunch of scared vampire hunters than a dead vampire.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Even taking into account his Alternate Character Interpretation, Dracula isn't exactly warm and cuddly, and the whole 'Vlad the Impaler' backstory isn't exactly waved away. But he is presented as being honest and more-or-less benevolent.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Dracula isn't exactly nice, but he does raise some more-or-less good points about why he's not the Complete Monster everyone thinks he is -- and how, if he was, he could have had a much easier time against the 'good' guys than he ended up having.
  • Perspective Flip: On the original Dracula.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Played for laughs; in the first chapter, Dracula rues the fact that Jonathan Harker, being a proper upstanding Englishman who rigidly minds his own business to a fault, upon being confronted with the weirdness of Castle Dracula doesn't just ask what the hell is going on, as Dracula would have been more than happy to explain things and their resulting failure to communicate ended up with them becoming bitter enemies through increasing misunderstandings.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Dracula and Mina Harker.
  • Reverse Mole: Mina Harker was plotting with Dracula and feeding Van Helsing's group misinformation throught the latter parts of the book
  • Unreliable Narrator: The Count might not be an Complete Monster, but he's not exactly a saint, either, and he can be as prone to presenting himself in the best possible light as his enemies were.
  • Unwanted Harem: Dracula has clearly gotten long sick of his trio of vampire brides long before the events of the novel, and is struggling to remember exactly what about them he liked in the first place.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: Dracula lays this charge squarely on the Trope Namer; while the Harkers are just misguided and misled, Van Helsing is actively malicious.
  • Virus Victim Symptoms: The original novel's use of this trope is subverted, with many of the original examples of this explained away as being a result of misinformation, hysteria or complete fabrications.
  • Worthy Opponent: Not Van Helsing, in fact, whom Dracula considers to be nothing more than a charlatan and a quack. Instead, Dracula admits that despite his contempt for many of his foes, he nevertheless does have some small measure of respect for Jonathan Harker, who -- while not the smartest or most able of men -- is nevertheless a brave and respectable opponent.