OK. I admit it. I read a fairly eclectic range of titles (my wife would argue that I am nuts). I enjoy everything from Louis L’Amour’s Hopalong Cassidy to Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, from Sigmund Brouwer’s Out of the Shadow’s to Charles Hapgood’s Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings to Jonathan Sarfati’s Refuting Compromise. So, when I came across Bram Stoker’s Lair of the White Worm, I was intrigued. In case you can’t place the name, Stoker is the author of the Dracula. Who can resist a charming title about a White Worm? Certainly not me….
Stoker wrote around the turn of the twentieth century and it is obvious from his writing and not just in the placement of the story, but mostly in the style. To be fair, novels were a new genre and written differently; they were not nearly as streamlined and focused as modern books tend to be. Often the plot wades into detail and then skips along over the surface of the plot. As a reader, you can always see the plot running like a river, sometimes around you while you swim in it and at other times beneath you as you ride a boat above its surface. I enjoyed the concept of the story; a prehistoric snake (the white worm) still haunted modern England and Adam Salton was tasked with the holy mission of destroying the creature to save his love and his friends. At times the plot hinted at greatness but all too often fell back into mediocrity.
I had two other problems with the structure of the book. First, Stoker developed quite a few fascinating sub-plots only to forget about them. In the end, I stood back and felt a sense of letdown because I wanted to know how the sub-plots turned out. I haven’t decided if unfinished and undeveloped sub-plots are an effort at realism or just a sign of bad writing. Could it be that every day of our lives, “sub-plots” are formed and orphaned in the same day? That is a philosophical debate for another day – or at least one for the comments.
The second problem I had was the philosophy espoused in the story. In some sections, the characters proclaimed faith in the sovereignty of God. In others, they proclaimed belief in evolution and the creative power of evolution. Stoker was strongly influenced by the rationalism movement as is evident by this story. Yet, the influence of Christianity is still strong. The result is a tension between faith and reason that need not be there. (Science matches the Bible; evolution is not accurate science.)
The plot tracks Adam Salton as he returns from Australia. He is a wealthy landowner who is the last of his family in Australia. He returns to England to meet his great uncle who is his only living relative. Once there, he is introduced to Sir Nathaniel an “old diplomatist” with whom he takes great counsel throughout the story. Together, they battle the White Worm.
As a side note, this book was written in 1911. As is common for books in that era, it does evidence prejudice against Africans, and uses derogatory names (once or twice). The one African in the book is admittedly one of the more evil to come from the Dark Continent, but nonetheless, the bias is evident. In addition, as language has changed, there are one or two words that would be considered inappropriate to use today, but were acceptable in that day. Just so you’re aware.
Was it worth reading? I didn’t have too many positive things to say so far, but yes, it was worth reading. I downloaded the audio book from Audio Books For Free . I would go through the book again, mostly because I enjoy these older titles, but also because they are good stories and they come from a different time, which gives them their own charm. Another great author (with the same objections) is Edgar Rice Burroughs who wrote the Tarzan series.