SPOILER WARNING: Very mild spoilers for Twelve by Jasper Kent, much more major spoilers for Out of the Dark by David Weber.
My dad loved Dracula. When I was a wee tot, he read me Bram Stoker’s classic novel; I don’t remember this happening, but I’m told my mom disapproved. (Mom and Dad didn’t see eye to eye on stuff like this; family legend has it that, for their anniversary, he took her to see Alien in the theatre. I’m not sure that she was thrilled.) Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula was one of his all-time favorite movies, and he enjoyed quoting some of the more over-the-top lines in a deep, appreciative rumble, like a wine aficionado savoring a favorite vintage.
It’s not a surprise that he communicated some of his enthusiasm to me. I became an ardent Castlevania fan, enjoyed Van Helsing, geeked out when Dracula appeared in an episode of Buffy. Of course, meeting Dracula in non-Stoker yet still vampire-related contexts is not terribly surprising. But sometimes you run into the Count in (pardon the pun) the damnedest places. Sometimes it makes sense, other times, not so much.
Jasper Kent’s novel Twelve centers around a group of Russian soldiers in 1812 who hire a band of mercenaries to help slow or even stave off Napoleon’s invasion. The mercenaries turn out to be vampires, which is not terribly surprising for the genre-savvy reader; the nice surprise was their leader. He appears only once, to drop off the twelve-vampire guerilla squadron, but the details of his appearance were perfect, from his manner to the dragon ring he wore. The thing I appreciated most was, his presence in Imperial Russia could still fit in with Bram Stoker’s timeline for the undead nobleman. After all, nobody said he wasn’t wandering around that area 80 years or so before he decided to move to London!
More surprising was his appearance in David Weber’s military sci-fi novel Out of the Dark. Yes, that’s right. Military. Science. Fiction. With Dracula.
I’ve never read any of Weber’s other books, so I can’t say how typical Out of the Dark is of his work. The first two-third were fairly dull, alternating between the wolflike aliens invading Earth and the stalwart humans, mostly soldiers, operating in small bands to pick off the invaders. Then, one of the soldiers winds up in Eastern Europe (specifically Walachia), where he encounters a local nobleman who is also battling the aliens.
The nobleman introduces himself as Mircea Basarab, a name which pinged something in my memory, but I couldn’t recall what. Everything about his first appearance in the novel screamed “YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS GUY,” but of course he hadn’t been mentioned previously in the book, so I thought perhaps he might have been featured in another of Weber’s novels…? Except not so much.
With Mircea’s help–his speed, his cleverness, and his amazing ability to get himself and his men into highly fortified alien installations and slaughter everyone stationed there without being caught by surveillance–the alien invaders are not only slowed, but entirely repulsed. The book ends with “Mircea” and assorted of the main human characters (now not quite so human as they were) taking over an alien spaceship, while Mircea vows to take the fight back to the aliens’ homeworld.
Like you do.
Because when your planet is in the middle of an invasion from alien hostiles, what you need is … DRACULA!
(The little ping I got on my memory? It’s because Mircea was the name of Vlad Tepes’s older brother. Basarab is the name of their royal House, of which House Dracul was an offshoot. Later in the book–you know, before he turns everyone into vampires and kills all the invaders–he apologizes for giving a false name. He didn’t want to freak out the poor American.)
Now don’t get me wrong. I am big huge fan of the kitchen-sink method of fiction-writing. The more cool stuff you can pack into one book, the better! It’s just that, “… and then DRACULA shows up!” is a bit startling in the middle of a fairly boiler-plate SF novel full of cardboard characters and lovingly detailed descriptions of guns. I wish Weber had been able to work the Dark Prince into his book more smoothly, without that “WHAM! And now we’re going THIS way!” wrench of the steering wheel.
It does make me wonder, though. What other novels would benefit from the inclusion of Dracula? How about a Tom Clancy-style political thriller? Dracula would make a heck of a spy! Or one of those chick-lit books about shoes? “I don’t know what to wear to Brian’s party,” Melissa sighed. And then DRACULA showed up!
What do you guys think? What other genres would be improved if Dracula showed up?