Distinctly Victorian, pleasurably Gothic, and immeasurably influential novel about a centuries-old vampire who travels from Transylvania to England where he is opposed by six confederates. One of those allied against him is an old but constitutionally open-minded Dutch professor named Van Helsing; the vampire, of course, is Count Dracula. One of the finest and most engrossing horror novels of all time, written with a richness and depth that makes the whole thing not only believable but positively inevitable. Stoker scrimps on nothing (including, be warned, a rather roundabout manner of communication between characters that is replete with the sincerest flattery and concern you will ever read); otherwise, the books drips atmosphere when appropriate, it's spooky, it's horrifying, and it is exciting, as well, with plenty of action and a number of memorable scenes. And, of course, it's a treasure trove of vampire lore, including perhaps most notably for modern audiences the idea that vampires can move about during daylight, only without their un-dead powers.
Stoker's book begins with Jonathan Harker's written words, "Left Munich at 8:35 p.m." He is on his way to meet with Count Dracula in Transylvania. What it doesn't tell us is what happened to Harker while he was in Munich. This story, "Dracula's Guest," is the tale of those events. First published in 1914, it was originally written as the first chapter of Dracula, from which it was excised as either superfluous or simply in order to shorten the manuscript. In any case, Stoker must have revised it before publication, for the style is different, Harker isn't specifically named, and, though written in the first person, it isn't framed as an entry in his diary (which, had it been included that way, would have been at odds with the epistolary format of the rest of the book). That said, it worked out for the best, and we can be thankful that Stoker never produced an "author's cut" of Dracula. The slow build of the novel toward Harker's meeting with the Count is exactly the right beginning, while, taken alone yet in context, "Dracula's Guest" is a terrific horror story, full of dread and weird happenings -- as well as something else. The Signet Classic edition of the book claims on its cover that Dracula is "the dread lord of the un-dead." With only the novel to go by, this isn't saying a whole lot; the only other vampires we see are the three "sisters" in his castle. Here, in the story, we finally see that there are more of them in the world and that Dracula does indeed hold some sway over them.