Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker

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.


6 thoughts on “Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker

  1. This book sounded interesting. I can’t say that I have heard of the title or the author before. Your description of this author’s style, however, sounded similar to Jules Verne’s style. I have read Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea which was written in 1870, and so was also a part of that “early novel era”. Verne also seemed to half develope a sub-plot and then drop it. His ending was, in my mind, ant-climatic, for Verne left his readers wondering after half a dozen unanswered sub-plots. No one will ever know who Capt. Nemo was, where he was from, and why he had entombed himself in the sea. No one will ever know what happened to the great submarine The Nautilus .

  2. I haven’t read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea but as I understand it, Verne did answer some of those questions in his sequal: The Mysterious Island. Also, if you search for Captain Nemo on this site, you will find a novel about Verne and his friend Nemo that is very interesting.

  3. Thank you for reviewing this book. I looooovvvvveeee the original Dracula by Bram Stoker, and I couldn’t decide whether or not to try to track down this title. From your review, it sounds more like a book I will try to find sometime at a used bookstore. Great website!

  4. Pingback: Conservative Book Talk » Tales of Terror and Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle

  5. I just finished reading this book. It was recommended to me by a friend because, as she described it, Mr. Stoker was losing his mind when he wrote it. (As far as I know, this is speculation, but it was the last novel he ever wrote.) Therefore, I went into it expecting some bizarre, disjointed plot and got exactly what I was looking for. To me, it was much more comical at times than terrifying, almost becoming a hard read at times because it takes so much effort just to keep things together in your mind, a task at which Stoker was obviously not succeeding himself. One of the biggest problems of all was the perspective was inconsistent; the first few chapters suggest third person limited, but as the strange events start to unfold, the protagonist disappears for several chapters at a time, which adds to to unconnected feel of the novel. All and all, it read more like something out of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series than Frankenstein or even Dracula.

  6. That would explain the confusing nature of this book. I guess I’ll have to look up Dracula to see a better showing of Stoker’s material.

    Thanks. And, please, don’t demean Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by comparison to the White Worm. Never has there been a funnier book than Hitchhiker.

    And remember, Don’t Panic.

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