Dracula Unbound Critical Essays

Brian W. Aldiss


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Within the highly regarded canon of Brian W. Aldiss’ works, Dracula Unbound occupies a very specific slot—that of sequel to his well-received Frankenstein Unbound (1973). In the frequent manner of sequels, Dracula Unbound mirrors Frankenstein Unbound in a number of ways. Both books feature scientists who travel to the 1800’s to encounter famous writers of speculative fiction and characters from those authors’ works. Most readers will probably agree with the majority of critics that the earlier work is the better of the two.

As Frankenstein Unbound takes Mary Shelley’s theme of the ethical and unethical uses of science, Dracula Unbound borrows Bram Stoker’s theme of good versus evil. The concept of absolute evil in a science-fiction framework poses some problems. Whereas many readers can readily accept Dracula as the personification of absolute evil in Stoker’s Victorian horror novel, they may have problems with Aldiss’ rationale for the utter evil of Dracula and his minions: their reptilian brains. Bodenland finds that the vampires’ vileness is predi-cated on their lack of a neocortex. In short, the creatures are biologically predisposed to unmitigated evil. The ethical implications of such a discovery are vast: Are “good” and “evil” then universally based on genetics? As repulsive as the Fleet Ones are, are they responsible for their actions? Few of Aldiss’ characters...

(The entire section is 525 words.)