In Which Our Intrepid Fiction Reviewer Heidi Discovers Stephenie Meyer Was Not The Only Vampire Writer With Only One Book In Them, But That Didn’t Stop Their Publishers From Commissioning Another One.
My friend Heidi (collegeatthirty.blogspot.com) wrote this review of Bram Stoker’s piece of magnificence, and posted it on Facebook. I thought it was so hilarious that I begged her to let me borrow it as a guest entry.
Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker
Ugh. Oh, my head! This book is HORRIBLE! And not in a “gee, that was horrible! Read this!” sort of way like Twilight, but in a “Why was this ever in print?!” sort of way. I can only guess that this book was published after Stoker’s success with Dracula, and people probably read it because it was a hot commodity, and then realized that he’s a talentless hack.
What wut? Yeah, I said it.
Anyway, there are two main plotlines, though they overlap quite a lot. The first is about Adam, a long-lost nephew of a single, childless gentleman, and heir apparent of the Salton fortune, whatever it may be. Adam’s family moved to Australia, and Adam made his fortune there. Then his uncle started writing, and Adam had to inform him that the other Salton was dead, and they began a correspondence. Salton Sr. then asked Adam to come to England, since Adam seemed very interested in the history of Lambton, and knew quite a lot about it.
I can’t tell you how quickly Uncle Salton drops out of the story. A guy called Sir Nathaniel takes his place, and together, Adam and Nathaniel begin to uncover the true story of the white worm of Lambton.
While this is happening, the heir of Castra Regis, Edgar Caswall returns home from abroad with a West African “servant”, and Lady Arabella March sets her cap at Edgar, and is not…unsuccessful. Not really successful either. Also, the African “servant” seems to exist in order to put the “N” word in the book as much as possible. He’s supposedly also very successful at voodoo, which Caswall finds helpful. Or something. It’s never really stated. If you don’t mind clichéd views of Africans, then this book is for you!
Second plotline: Adam meets Mimi Watford and her cousin Lilla at the same time that Edgar sees them, and while Adam is smitten with Mimi, Edgar seems enthralled by Lilla. It comes out that Edgar’s family has been in company with Anton Mesmer, and Edgar tries to mesmerize Lilla. In front of Adam and Mimi. A lot. All the time. And it’s really important to note that it’s Lilla whom Edgar is after, not Mimi. So that’s why I practically shouted, WTF! when Adam decided that Mimi was in danger from Caswall and Lady Arabella, and decides to marry her and take her away from Mercia for a week or two, FREAKIN’ LEAVING LILLA TO FEND FOR HERSELF AGAINST EDGAR WHO EVENTUALLY KILLS HER WITH HIS BRAIN*. I just couldn’t figure this out. We all know from reading Jane Austen that Mimi taking Lilla with her wouldn’t be a strange thing, nor would bringing Lilla to live with her after her marriage. In fact, it would have been a good idea, given Lilla’s accomplishments, to have her live with a wealthy relative so that she can find a husband of her own. Again, I’ve read Jane Austen. I’m not ignorant to this! Also, WHY DIDN’T LILLA JUST FREAKIN’ STOP SEEING EDGAR?! IT DOESN’T TAKE A GENIUS TO FIGURE OUT THAT SHE SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN AS FAR AWAY FROM HIM AS POSSIBLE! It seemed to me that the author just wanted to kill Lilla off, and have it be tradjick and give Mimi the strength to finally defeat both him and the white worm, but he could have done it without setting it up so stupidly. I’m pretty sure even Victorian audiences were like, “Dude, stop seeing the guy already. He’s trying to steal your soul.”
I just want to take this moment to say that according to a Victorian press release, this book is an erotic, dark thriller. So…in the Victorian age, a man staring intently at a woman was considered erotic. Check.
But where’s the white worm, you ask? Oh, you little naive cutie, you! Like the book is really about a worm terrorizing the Lambton village. That would have been too scary for the poor little Victorians! No, they’d much rather read about a guy trying to mesmerize a young girl, and then kill her with his brain*.
So, the white worm. It’s obviously Lady Arabella. There has never been a doubt, nor will there ever be for future readers, if there are any (don’t read it, seriously). Lady Arabella lives in Diana’s Grove, which is built over the well where the white worm lives. She is the worm, though she was at one point a person. Sir Nathaniel speculates that when she was a child, she was bitten, and the white worm possessed her from that bite, so while there’s an actual worm, Arabella is its avatar. She feeds it and cares for it. But she’s also a woman, so she wants to marry Edgar. Not because he’s a great hunk of manflesh, but because he’s rich, and she’s in debt. It should also be noted that Mongooses go nuts around her, and she kills them. She tries to help Edgar possess Lilla, but considers Mimi to be her rival. Because, you know, this book is freakin’ logical.
So, the whole thing with the worm is really anti-climactic. But then, the book is anti-climactic, so I don’t know what to tell you. Adam figures out pretty quickly that Arabella is the worm, and Nathaniel agrees because he’s known all along. And instead of attempting to expose her or stop her, he just lets her go, killing young children and servants, because no one cares about them.
The second WTF moment comes when Arabella offers to sell Diana’s Grove to Adam, and Adam agrees. Keep your enemies and paranormal creatures closer, and all that. Also, since Arabella views Mimi in an antagonistic light, this was just such a great idea! Really! But Adam has an idea. He wants to put dynamite and sand down the well where the worm lives, and kill it by collapsing the grove on top of it. Apparently, if you throw dynamite and sand down a huge well on top of a gigantic worm, it will never notice until it’s too late! Because that’s what happened.
No, really. The end.
No inquiry, no coroner’s report, no one wants to know what happened to Caswall or Arabella or Lilla, or anyone else that’s died during all of this. It’s just over.
*Edgar doesn’t actually kill Lilla with his brain. She actually died from the mental strain and physical exhaustion of fighting him off of her. But still. His brain can kill you! Accio brain!
Things that could make this book readable/better:
Characterization. There is just an information dump of history and making “plans” and solitary walks of the main players, but very little is known about them. For instance: why Lilla? Surely there were other, weaker girls that Edgar could have gone after, but it is never stated whether he is fascinated by her, whether she is just an angel among us and he wants to corrupt her, or if it’s all just a game for him. Maybe he feels she could be his redemption, but because he’s corrupted his mind with Mesmer’s powers, he can’t approach her as a regular man, and instead must needs possess her.
Then there’s Mimi. Edgar is never overtly antagonistic around her. In fact, he never even acknowledges her presence as he attempts to possess Lilla, yet both he and Arabella are supposed to view her as an antagonist, an enemy to their persons. Why? What does Mimi have about her? She’s completely unformed as a character.
As for Arabella…is she possessed completely? Does she ever struggle against the madness of the White Worm and its incessant appetite? Are there moments of consciousness where she is horrified at herself for what she does? Why is she attempting to help Edgar with his possession? Is it to gain a toehold on his affections, or is Lilla her opposite?
Next, either this book needs to be a paranormal romp, or it needs to be pure believable fiction. Currently, there are paranormal elements, but you must believe that anything that happens is within every day parameters of “possible.” I would also add Steampunk elements, but that’s just me.
Lastly, you can’t just have the worm die, and have the climax be that the town collapses because it had created catacombs throughout Lambton. There is no way that a three thousand year old creature wouldn’t notice its lair being filled with sand and dynamite.
Heidi blogs at http://www.collegeatthirty.blogspot.com. She plans to survive the Zombiepocalypse by means of being unutterably cool, with awesome boots. Her World Re-population Partners Of Choice are Jean-Luc Picard and Vladimir Putin.