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Review "Lair of the White Worm" Bram Stoker (podcast)

PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 7:57 pm
by ryanseanoreilly
A meandering gothic tale of wormish fiends, overshadowed by a giant kite and frequent supper respites.

Written just before the author’s death, many reviewers have speculated that the writing suffered horribly as a result. There are seemingly random point-of-view switches (not set off by modern-standard breaks), dead end plots, confusing motivations of character, and staring contests (yes, mandatory staring contests that nobody can seem to avoid). Oh yeah, horribly offensive racist elements that probably even exceed what one might expect from this time period can be found in this work.

Most times when a book is read it should be considered on its own terms. For this book, the proper placement in history, literature and an open mind do very little to help the story elevate to any kind of level worth reading.

Despite all this, there are some interesting elements that rise up from the tattered ruins like dinosaur bones poking out of a primordial swamp. My favorite of which was an ominous kite that seemed to cast a strange influence over the characters and setting and even figure into the plot proper. The White Worm and its legend and place of abode are also intriguing and bolster up the back-story. The writing itself is very manageable for being an older work.

What mainly works in this story is the horror elements and the insufferable madness that rots the brains of the two chief antagonists: Lady Arabella and Edgar Caswall. The author does a decent job of describing their increasing descent into evil chaos. We seem to know what’s driving Lady Arabella’s ambitions and Caswall’s possessiveness. In contrast, the protagonists feel a bit like fluff as they wrestle with all the evil surrounding them. The African character is made to be one-dimensional and the other character’s views toward him are despicable and provide little more than an author’s lazy and contrived plot device.

The plot is not tight and moves slow as it plods over the occasional hole along the way. For myself, I found the continual and frequent meetings for strategy over tea between the protagonist and his would-be-ally (Sir Nathaniel) tedious and redundant if not pointless. The protagonist’s invocation of morality (sometimes a twisted morality) feel like a fragile shell of trite emblematic overtures. And the staring contests go on and on and on into absurdity and hilarity. I suspect that in the author’s time “mesmerism” (later hypnosis) were new and mysterious things in the minds of the culture and perhaps audiences of that time might be more intrigued by these references. That said, the author makes no great literary effort to complement this bygone fascination.

This is a story about privileged gentry that is filled with boring anecdotes of how dire their circumstances are without really feeling so dire. There is definitely a disconnect between the perils of the characters and what’s supposed to be at stake. The contrast is felt sharply when the climax of the plot crests into an absolutely bombastic finale that is fit to fritter across the pages of Hollywood’s worst action blockbuster (though it is described very well).

Ultimately, this book is not worth checking out. Not even for the fact that it is written by the author of “Dracula.” It may hold some small interest for those wanting to fully explore the author’s career (perhaps as an end cap of sorts). Perhaps those heavily interested in horror and wacky stories might find some elements worth noting. Overall, this is book is not for the casual fan or even the avid fan of this genre or related genres.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: "No Deodorant In Outer Space". The podcast is available on iTunes, Tune-In Radio, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website (

Episode Link:

Re: Review "Lair of the White Worm" Bram Stoker (podcast)

PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2016 12:58 am
by Neurolanis Returned
Some time ago I decided to read "Dracula," which came free with an e-reader. I loved it instantly. It surprised me how effective everything worked, hooking me in and keeping my interest. Some parts dragged on a little, I felt, but overall it was an impressive accomplishment. I tried reading "Lair of the White Worm" soon-after and was disappointed. The writing was not as inspired and felt almost amateurish by comparison. I did not read it very far into the book, but what you describe and seem to be alluding to was basically what I was getting: that it was written in a similar rhythm to "Dracula" but lacked the weight of it.

Re: Review "Lair of the White Worm" Bram Stoker (podcast)

PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 7:50 pm
by ryanseanoreilly
Yes, he wrote this at the very tale end of his life. Health issues may have been a factor... The story feels disjointed. It's not really regarded well. I'll have to read Dracula at some point and compare the two. I believe one of the other co-hosts on the podcast is a big fan of the Dracula text.

Re: Review "Lair of the White Worm" Bram Stoker (podcast)

PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:29 am
by kingbtd
Thanks for the tip on "Dracula". I believe I had to read it for a University class some thirty years ago. But I had to read almost a book a day during those days of studying, so I didn't really enjoy it -- it was a just smear of words in the mush I call my brain. However, in now rereading it, I find it to be s a tremendous work of literature. Moody, erie and mysterious! I will also stay away from the "White Worm". But I was thinking about purchasing Alan Moore's new book, "Jerusalem". I usually don't buy books anymore, seeing that Gutenberg Project offers so much for free. Has anyone here read "Jerusalem" yet? If so, what's your opinion of the book? Is it worth the 20 bucks? Of course all books are worth buying -- especially my books :) -- but we all have our budgets and mine doesn't allow for too many whistles and bells. Cheers from Dresden, and thanks again for the exchanges here on this site.

Re: Review "Lair of the White Worm" Bram Stoker (podcast)

PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 7:44 am
by Bmat
About Jerusalem, I haven't read it. I am thinking it might be an idea to make a new post with Jerusalem in the title to have a better chance of catching the attention of those who stop by here.

Re: Review "Lair of the White Worm" Bram Stoker (podcast)

PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2016 12:24 am
by kingbtd
Bmat, yup, your're right. The question deserves its own thread. I guess I'm a stream of consciousness kind of guy. I'll post the question after I read "Lathe of Heaven". Cheers!

Re: Review "Lair of the White Worm" Bram Stoker (podcast)

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 12:18 pm
by ryanseanoreilly
I haven't read "Jerusalem" either, but Alan Moore is a true story-telling wizard. I really enjoyed checking him out when we covered the "Watchman" on our podcast.