REVIEW: iDrakula by Bekka Black
Dear Ms. Black,
I guess it was only a matter of time before we received our first cell phone novel here at Dear Author. I’ve heard of them before, so I am familiar with the format. It’s a popular medium in Japan from what I understand, but this is the first one I’ve seen in English. I am reviewing the print version of the novel for Dear Author. I’ve been told there is an app for the iPhone/iPad but as I have neither of those tech toys, someone else will have to cover that.
As readers can surmise by the title, iDrakula is a modern retelling of Dracula by Bram Stoker. Like the original, iDrakula is written in epistolary format. The main difference is that instead of letters and journal entries, iDrakula utilizes emails and text messages. Instead of being interspersed with news articles, here we see various web pages from Mina’s browser and the occasional autopsy report.
Because it is a cell phone novel, iDrakula is a very quick and breezy read. It’s also a simplified version of Dracula with some characters omitted. The characters have been updated and there are some changes. For example, Mina Murray is now practices jujitsu, making her a right and proper paranormal YA heroine. The relationships between characters have also been altered. In most respects they work and are fairly true to the original characters, but at times it does use the tropes we’ve seen in many a catty high school YA novel.
On the other hand, the format loses one of the strengths of the original Dracula — that of its unreliable narration. There’s less subtext and reading between the lines here. Some people will like that and I realize it’s hard to give a multilayered story in a text message, but I found myself missing that aspect a great deal. One of my favorite parts about Dracula is that you need to read between the lines because what’s not said is as important as what is. The bounced email messages from when Jonathan is trapped in Dracula’s castle as well as Mina’s various internet searches on “unusual symptoms” did give me something to work with in terms of filling in the lines but it wasn’t nearly enough.
I do kind of wish I could read this novel in the digital multimedia format. The print format doesn’t really suit it and I fear in time, it will be very dated. Even now, it feels kind of gimmicky. That said, it’s appropriate for the season and readers looking for something different might want to give it a try. C-