Lair of the White Worm
“Seeing where the head of the monster was, the two men ventured a little further forward, and saw that the hidden mass at the base of the shaft was composed of vast coils of the great serpent’s body, forming a base from which the upright mass rose. As they looked, this lower mass moved, the glistening folds catching the moonlight, and they could see that the monster’s progress was along the ground. It was coming towards them at a swift pace, so they turned and ran, taking care to make as little noise as possible, either by their footfalls or by disturbing the undergrowth close to them. They did not stop or pause till they saw before them the high dark tower of Doom.”
-Excerpt from Lair of the White Worm, by Bram Stoker
The Willows gradually lead in to Lair of the White Worm, a lush, sprawling narrative. It took me places I never expected . . .
Okay, I’ll spare you the purple prose.
It was a mixed bag . . . If I went back for a re-read (which I won’t for the time being) I’m sure I’d pick up on even MORE things I missed in the first read. I came up with a list of findings, however, so prepare yourself: psychic battles, evil love triangles, monsters, and maniacs.
What just happened? Did I just say that?
To answer the first query: I have no idea; if the answer punched me in the face I doubt that I’d notice either.
As for the second query: I said it. It’s a true story. Now prepare yourselves as I tell it again (brothers).
Psychic battles, evil love triangles, monsters, and maniacs. That’s just a list of all the interesting things, mostly. Why the aforementioned is not our theme song, I have no guess. That’s what happens when you’re not clairvoyant, I suppose.
Stoker and Dracula
Nonetheless, here it is: terror at its finest. Make no mistake, I was confused at some parts of the plot. Given a certain amount of considerable thought, however, isn’t that the point? If we haven’t asked any questions what have we gotten from the book? Doesn’t the ability to question the author’s intent strengthen the reader’s relationship with them?
Maybe I’ve got it all backwards. Once again, here is another topic for which I am no expert. And yet once again, here is a topic where I know just enough. I’m sure I’m not the only one on the boat.
My first taste of Stoker was when I was a teenager, 16 or 17 years of age. I had discovered Hellsing; my muse had been Alucard. He had also been a rather unhealthy obsession; at that age though, who isn’t obsessed with something? I knew people who had fantasized about Mr. Clean then. With those arms, though, what woman (no matter how old) could resist? Alucard had been no different for me.
He was bad. And good. Almost too bad to be good. Then I found out that Alucard was Dracula spelled backwards . . .
. . . Naturally, Hellsing lead me to Dracula; the book was so good I couldn’t put it down. For me at that time, it was a totally new experience: the narrative, the writing style, and the sheer depth of the plot were something I had never seen before. I enjoyed the book so much that I now refuse to have anything to do with Twilight, out of respect for Stoker and his work.
So, having read Dracula, I had become accustomed to Stoker’s style of writing; he was the king of one sentence paragraphs. Within the pages the sprawling narrative of Dracula was given time to unfold. I came to care about each of the characters, and to loathe Dracula.
What I had come to know about Bram Stoker through Dracula quickly dissolved while reading Lair of the White Worm. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoyed the story. Though there seemed to be a great disconnect, the man was good enough to pull the story in its entirety all the way through. The only problem is that the story was not long enough.
Or have I missed the point?
Perhaps Stoker wanted us to feel alienated from certain parts of the book.
That brings into the question something which has been on my mind as of late: an author’s ability to convince.
If there was a man so evil, arrogant, even psychotic, would it not serve your purpose to alienate the audience from him as a means to an end? That way, through alienation, would they not get the point that the man was a monster?
As a writer, you’re essentially selling ideas. Certain ideas require a certain level of salesmanship. And if you’re a good writer, does that not make you convincing?
So, Stoker was not entirely out of his element in Lair of the White Worm. In fact, the length of the story may have served his purpose well. Truth be told, he was every where he needed to be.
The story hit the ground running after we met the main character; Stoker took no time in getting to the punchline, and once that was done he kept hitting us with revelation after revelation. The protagonists and antagonists were clearly defined. There was no beating around the bush. Even the setting was lush and interesting, with little bits of history dropped in here or there to add insights to the plot.
So yes, Lair of the White Worm did in fact take me places I never expected to go. When I read it again, I’ll end up somewhere else too.
And with that, I say my adieus for the night. Here it is: terror at its finest.
Sleep well my friends.
The House on the Borderland is next.