Contented Reader

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The Jewel of Seven Stars

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The Jewel of Seven Stars

Bram Stoker

Project Gutenberg

 

 

Not long ago, I finished reading Dracula with my advanced eighth graders.  Stoker didn’t invent the vampire novel, but he did write the archetypal vampire novel, the one the rest of the world has spent the last hundred years shamelessly stealing from.

The Jewel of Seven Stars does for mummies what Dracula did for vampires.  I’ll be honest; this book is not as good as Dracula.  But it’s a lot better than I expected.  It has many of the themes that were so noticeable in Stoker’s other work- the conflict between the exciting new world of science and the older world of religions and superstitionand , the dangerous eroticism.

There’s the wealthy Egyptologist, and his beautiful daughter, and her intrepid suitor.  There’s the mummified remains of a beautiful Egyptian queen and sorceress, and a mummified cat, and a real cat, a mysterious illness, a secretive Egyptian treasure-hunter, a mystery revealed in an old book, an estate perched on a cliff, and a midnight ceremony of dark and terrible import.  In other words, everything you need to make a good mummy story.

Vampires and zombies are more popular than ever, and werewolves have certainly not gone out of fashion, but I feel like mummies just don’t get the love they deserve.  I suppose it is because mummy stories depend on an exoticizing of Egypt that comes off as racist to modern readers.  There was “The Mummy” and its sequels, though, and that episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with the Incan Mummy girl.  What was that episode called?  Oh, right: “Incan Mummy Girl.”

I understand why this book is so much overshadowed by its author’s better work, but it is a good read, spooky and atmospheric.  The Project Gutenberg edition is the 1912 version, with the new ending which the publishers insisted upon.  If you’d rather read Stoker’s original ending, you want the 1903 edition.  I found text and pdf versions of both editions at bramstoker.org.  I recommend reading both endings; they each have certain charms.

It was also the source for this Hammer film.

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Written by Contented Reader

October 3, 2011 at 7:24 pm

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