Book Review: Dracula vs. Hitler by Patrick Sheane Duncan

A review copy was received from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Dracula vs. HitlerDracula vs. Hitler by Patrick Sheane Duncan

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror, Historical Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Inkshares (October 25, 2016)

Length: 441 pages

Author Information: Website

Paranormal horror and historical fiction collide in the rather unfortunately titled Dracula vs. Hitler, since anyone picking up this book would be rightly forgiven for mistaking this book for a campy, humorous mashup. After all, that was my initial thought after seeing the name and cover as well, but as it turns out, my first impression couldn’t be further from the truth.

Dracula vs. Hitler is actually a quite serious endeavor, reinforced with what appears to be plenty of research and painstaking attention to detail. For one thing, it is written in an epistolary style like the original Dracula by Bram Stoker, a nod to the classic work.

The story officially begins with the Editor’s Note, as the author Patrick Sheane Duncan (who is also known for his work as a film producer and director, on movies like Courage Under Fire and Mr. Holland’s Opus) recounts a recent trip deep down into the bowels of a cavernous Washington DC document warehouse (think the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark), where he was supposed to be conducting research for a new television series. Instead, he ends up finding more than he bargained for, when he chances across a thick packet of papers labeled “TOP SECRET”. Inside this classified folder are the documents making up most of this book, mainly a series of entries from the journal of one Jonathan Murray Harker dated between the months of April to June 1941, as well as a number of excerpts from a novel believed to be authored by Lucille Van Helsing writing under a pen name.

These two characters are of course the descendants of the original characters from the novel Dracula, the ending of which apparently didn’t play out the way Stoker had written them. In a letter written in 1890, Lucille’s father Abraham Van Helsing confesses to not having killed the creature as he had intended, instead stashing the body away in a state of suspended animation. Fifty odd years later, as the Nazis are wreaking death and fear across Europe, Van Helsing is now a resistance leader in Romania. Nazi atrocities are detailed in secret communiqués to Berlin written by Major Waltraud Reikel, a vile and sadistic officer of the SS. As the resistance forces flounder under Reikel’s tight hold in the area, Van Helsing is forced to consider drastic measures—like turning to the creature he put down half a century ago. As reluctant as he is to go through with the plan, deep down he knows that to fight a monster…you need a monster. Together with the English spy Jonathan Harker, grandson of original Jonathan and Mina Harker, Van Helsing prepares to go back and unearth the legendary Dracula.

So no, this book is not intended to be a cheesy crossover or a comedic piece so don’t let the title put you off (though on the other hand, if you were attracted to this book because you were expecting a humorous read, then you’ll be disappointed…seriously, they really could have gone with a more suitable title). Instead, what you’ll find is a cleverly thought out novel featuring deep characters which actually deals with some solemn themes. Despite having a strong element of escapism appeal, I also wouldn’t exactly call this a “light, fluffy” read either. The story definitely has its share of slow, dragging parts, especially towards the beginning and in the middle, and for a book called Dracula vs. Hitler, there’s actually disappointingly little showdown between the two title characters. Dracula doesn’t even enter the picture until about a hundred pages in, and the Fuhrer’s presence mainly comes into play near the very end.

Still, after a lengthy buildup, the reader’s patience is rewarded as the momentum picks up. The story takes off bigtime as the resistance unleashes their secret weapon in the form of a bloodsucking vampire, and I can’t even begin to describe the immense pleasure and satisfaction derived from watching the Nazis lose their shit. The fight scenes are suspenseful and literally explosive, and of course, once Hitler finally figure out what’s going on, he becomes obsessed with capturing Dracula for a chance at unlocking the secret of immortality. The author pulls off the rest of the novel marvelously, and there’s no doubt that the climax and conclusion are this book’s best parts.

There are other notable aspects that must be addressed though, and first and foremost is of course the character of Dracula himself. Here he is portrayed as a savior and protector of Romania, though not without some pushback from those familiar with his bloody role in “The Book” as well as his brutal history as Prince Vlad the Impaler. Dracula doesn’t actually get his own “voice” in this novel, and instead we have to rely mostly on Jonathan Harker and Lucy Van Helsing’s sections in order to get to know him. Nevertheless, I am impressed with Duncan’s handling of the classic character. In the story, the resistance often refers to Dracula as “the creature” or “the secret weapon”, but as the plot continues it becomes more and more clear that he is not a thing or a monster, but a man who is more human than anyone gives him credit for. The author has also managed to create a lot of interesting tension between Dracula, Jonathan and Lucy, even going as far as to throw a bizarre love triangle into this mix (and trust me, it is not dubious as it sounds).

All told, its questionable title notwithstanding, I’m actually not too worried because I’m sure Dracula vs. Hitler will find an audience—and I really hope it will find success too because this book really is quite a gem. Do not, and I repeat, do not be fooled into expecting “Freddy vs. Jason” or “King Kong vs. Godzilla” levels of camp with this one; it’s not that kind of book. Historical fantasy and paranormal fans should have a good time though, especially if you’re looking for an imaginative book with a dash of pulp and quirkiness.

3-5stars

Mogsy 2

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21 Comments on “Book Review: Dracula vs. Hitler by Patrick Sheane Duncan

  1. It’s true that the title doesn’t reallt attract but it looks interesting from your review and I confess that I’m intrigued to see how everything is done

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  2. I’m hoping to get to this one in November. Like you, the title has always thrown me a tad and since I actually like the cover, I think they could do better. Oh well, can’t wait to see what I think. Great review and you’ve got me more interested in picking it up now!

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    • Yeah, I really had to throw all my first impressions out the moment I started. And then it became all about letting go and simply going along for the ride. I found the experience entertaining enough, I hope you have fun too 🙂

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  3. I wonder if the author chose the title himself or if the publishers mandated it. If I saw that on the shelves I wouldn’t even pick it up, but your review makes it sound quite interesting. Titles are important, publishers!!

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  4. This does not seem like comedy to me at all, just looking at the cover, but that title is strange for sure. If I had more time I would probably pick this up. I’m intrigued by the historical mash up of two well known characters!

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    • Yeah, the story is not comedy at all, though I’ve seen on Goodreads and elsewhere where the title has been the cause of some comments along the lines of “Is this a joke?” or “Is this for real?” My only hope is that people will give it a chance even though the title makes it seem like it might be total camp 🙂

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  5. Fascinating! The theme of the war-ending weapon treated not in a technological way but in a historical and supernatural direction – although I imagine that all the problems arising from the kind of weapon you can control only up to a certain point will be explored here.
    I agree on your comments about the poor choice of title: the “x vs. y” presentation does little to point toward what must be a very serious theme. I’m very, very intrigued.
    Thank you for this in-depth review! 🙂

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  6. Wow, yeah, that is an unfortunately titled book, especially if it is not campy! I definitely would not expect anything serious, but rather overt humor and silliness.

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    • Yep, I had my doubts when I got the pitch, but fortunately I got to ask the publisher about the true nature and tone of the novel. Not everyone will get that chance though, and I hope that won’t hurt its chances of making it into the hands of readers who will love it!

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  7. When I first saw this title (I think it was on your blog actually), I also thought that the story was going to be humorous so if it’s not then, as you sais, it’s a poor title… I’m glad it’s more serious than fluffy though so I might give it a try after reading Dracula!

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  8. Like you said, I think this will definitely have an audience but for some reason it just really doesn’t appeal to me. Perhaps it’s simply the title.
    Lynn 😀

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  9. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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