This is a classic that is hard to appreciate in light of much better-written novels that have come along since, though they all owe a debt to Dracula
for their very existence. For their very existence!
See what I did there? I'm writing like Bram Stoker now. To a certain extent, Stoker's prose is just typical of the period -- verbosity and melodrama and long, long soliloquies were the order of the day. Yet the truly great authors of that period, like Dickens and Trollope, usually keep the soliloquies somewhat in check, or at least made them interesting. Stoker suffered from the fact that he was writing something relatively new but using the old novel form to do it.
That's a lot of modern verbosity to say that I think this book dragged at times. It was boring listening to Van Helsing go on and on and on, except when now and then he'd drop some more interesting tidbits about vampires. Also, the woman-on-a-pedestal thing is also typically Victorian, but Mina Harker practically wears a halo and all the men around her worship at the altar of her precious, noble womanhood. Okay, okay, we get it, Mina is the noble virtuous one, Lucy was the slutty one. (Well, by Victorian standards -- Stoker drops tons of hints that Lucy was not quite the unblemished flower of femininity that Mina was. Why, she even admits to wishing a woman could marry three men! *gasp!*
Anyway, length and problems with pacing aside, this is still an excellent novel to read to get back to the source. No, Dracula
wasn't quite the first vampire novel, but it was the big trendsetter, and practically every vampire trope you've ever heard of was popularized (and in some cases, made up) here. Dracula is a cunning, malicious SOB, a good old-fashioned Villain with touches of suave charm and cruel humor, and the race to kill him off in time to save Mina does become quite the nail-biter in the end. You really get a feel for how hapless and underpowered these mere mortals are, trying to take on an ancient, immortal foe with all kinds of inhuman abilities.
Stoker also deserves praise for his descriptions and for evoking the mood of the story at every stage, from the ancient, oppressive gloominess of Castle Dracula to the dark streets of unsuspecting London at night to the cursed seashore where the Demeter
washed up, piloted by a dead man's hand. Stoker makes it easy for the reader to visualize everything.
In modern terms, his worldbuilding and characterization is excellent, and Dracula
is certainly entertaining. I just wish it hadn't been quite so long -- there were a lot of journal entries and excerpts that could have been cut without losing much, and melodramatic Victorian "ejaculations" and monologues start to feel like filler after a while. A dark, bloody classic that creaks a bit with age and with the style of the author, but it's the grand-daddy of all vampire novels, so well worth reading (or listening to).