Friday, January 31, 2014

The Vampire Count of Monte Cristo review

    Literary Mash-ups are a genre which was popularized by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It's since gone on to become something of a new minor sensation, inspiring many aspiring authors to posthumously collaborate with the great writers of the past. These efforts are hit and miss but a rare few gems have emerged since the original audacious creation.  

    The Vampire Count of Monte Cristo is one of the latter.

    This mash-up is different from P&P&Z by being a serious take on the premise. It is a supernatural revenge tale treated serious despite its titular change. This is helped because the Count of Monte Cristo is frequently compared to a vampire in the original text while the connection between blood thirst and vengeance is an easy one to make.

    Almost everyone is familiar with the original story: Edmond Dantes is hideously wronged by three jealous associates, he spends a decade imprisoned, he makes the acquaintance of a monk who knows of a hidden treasure, Edmond escapes and uses the money to wreck a horrible vengeance on the wrong-doers. Most adaptions alter the story by removing one or more of the conspirators while setting up Edmond with his lost-love Mercedes rather than the Greek slave Haydee.

    The Vampire Count of Monte Cristo veers closer to the novel than most adaptations, including both the Count's romance with Haydee as well as the entirety of the conspirators. Indeed, it is quite entertaining to realize how close to the text the book veers when it could have done a great deal differently.

    Fans of the original novel will not be disappointed with the new content. The fidelity of the novel to the original lulls original novel fans into a sense of complacency only to veer in new directions at the most opportune moments. I salute Mathew Baugh for not only fastidiously studying the original manuscript but also incorporating many period-appropriate pieces of supernatural lore into the text.
    The altered content begins when Edmond Dantes discovers his fellow prisoner, Abbe Faria, is acquainted with ceremonial magic amongst many other sciences. Using a forbidden spell the man wrote down on his linens, Edmond conjures the Angel of Vengeance (who is possibly the Devil) and makes a pact to gain his revenge. Imbued with the power of a vampire, he proceeds to wreck his vengeance in a much more supernatural fashion than in the original novel.

    There are other changes too, including the addition of a ghost, a magical talking head, more vampires, and a homunculus designed to take revenge on Dante's enemies. All of this seamlessly fits into Edmond Dante's adventures and there were times I couldn't tell where a substitution was made since the original Count was a figure of theatrical trickery himself.

    Another benefit to The Vampire Count of Monte Cristo is it serves as a fairly decent abridged version of the novel. The original novel clocks in at over a thousand pages while this novel is roughly about a third that much. Despite this, the story doesn't suffer and trods along with a minimum loss of story. Mathew Baugh does his best to make sure his additions fit with Alexandre Dumas' style and, for the most part, he succeeds.

    Without a photographic memory of the original content, its difficult to say which parts of the story (which aren't supernatural) are Baugh and which parts belong to the Dumas. The greatest change to the story is towards the end. Fans of the original may also object to the slightly less triumphant tone of the novel but, given Edmond Dantes is now a bloodthirsty creature of the night, I believed this was an appropriate change. I won't spoil the specifics but leave them for readers to discover on their own.

    In conclusion, I heartily recommend readers pick up The Vampire Count of Monte Cristo. Vampires and tales of revenge are a natural fit and this is certainly no exception. It deserves a spot amongst other literary mash-ups and I hope it gets the attention it deserves.


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