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Anno Dracula

I finished reading Johnny Alucard yesterday, a couple of weeks after reading the preceding three books of Kim Newman's Anno Dracula series. The cause for pause was only because I was out of town for the holidays; I went looking for the first book (also called Anno Dracula) after remembering Newman's short story "The Other Side of Midnight" from a horror anthology I read a few years back.

This series became my crack (or "drac," if I wanna make a bad bad pun).

Anno Dracula - 547 pages, finished 18 December 2013, set in 1888. Basically Bram Stoker's characters (among other literary figures) are real people mingling with historical personages (including in some cases their authors) in an alternate England where Van Helsing and company lost and Vlad Tepes has seduced the widowed Queen Victoria and usurped an empire that's come to favor the undead over the "warm." Meanwhile someone's hacking up vampiric prostitutes in White Chapel with a silver scalpel, introducing the prominent characters of the series (a warm detective named Charles Beauregard, a medieval French vampire named Genevieve, and Irish journalist Kate Reed, among many many others) as they track down the killer.

- I should note that 421 pages of the book I read was the novel itself. The rest comprised annotations, an autobiographical afterword by Mr Newman, acknowledgments, an initial alternate ending from the story that would become the novel, extracts from a drafted screenplay, an article about the portrayal of vampires and Jack the Ripper in fiction, and the short story "Dead Travel Fast," in which Vlad Tepes aka Count de Ville invests in a new contraption called the automobile, committing the first modern hit and run as he does.

The Bloody Red Baron - 358 pages, finished 22 December 2013, set in World War I. I learned from this book a bit of who the real Baron--Freiherr Manfred von Reichtofen--was, though he probably wasn't actually a vampire shape-shifting into a giant bat thing eating other pilots. More interesting was Charles's protégé, the temporary, not-quite-vampire Edwin Winthrop, and the role of real-life writers Hanns Heinrich Ewers and Edgar Allan Poe (who in this book was an undead Confederate veteran disgusted with the United States, though historically he died before the war broke out, demonstrating the many liberties taken in these books) being commissioned by Dracula to write pro-German propaganda.

Judgment of Tears: Anno Dracula 1959 - 291 pages, finished 24 December 2013. Also known as Dracula Cha Cha Cha after some dance everyone's doing in the book. The American title is a reference to the principal antagonist, Rome's ancient supernatural triumvirate Mother of Tears. There's a strong death/immortality dichotomy theme in this one, as demonstrated by the dying centenarian Beauregard and the three immortal ladies of his life (the ex-fiancée, Penelope; the not-so-secret admirer, Kate; and the "life"-long companion, Genevieve), the wedding and death of Dracula and its circumstances, and the nature of the Mother of Tears herself. This theme's shrouded up in a very Cold War/James Bond-inspired plot, including a comical take on the bad-guy-with-a-fluffy-kitty archetype.

Johnny Alucard - 441 pages, finished 6 January 2014, set in various locations throughout the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. This one, even more than the others I think, was ripe with references that were fun to catch (the musical performers "Fang" and "Short Lion" = Sting and Lestat de Lioncourt, etc.), as Dracula's issue Ion Popescu/Johnny Popp/John Alucard flees Ceausescu's Romania for America, and once there founds a proper NYC-LA drugs (specifically "drac," a dehydrated and powdered form of vampire blood that can be snorted or injected) and film empire. Newman's evidently a big film nerd and it really shows in this one, with two prominent parts of the book revolving around Dracula-inspired films shot by Francis Coppola and Orson Welles (a version of which was the story that I initially read) as well as a lot of nods to cinema/actors, such as Genevieve's beach buddy "the Dude" and a minor antagonist known as "Barbie the Vampire Slayer." This one plays more head games (literally) than the preceding three, with a symbiotic spirit that empowers/takes over Alucard, and a vampire called Holly who absorbs and shape-shifts as vampires she's ingested (similar to the Alucard character from the Hellsing series).

Firstly, I love alternate history, which I became aware of as a genre after reading Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and Mary Gentle's Ilario books. It's always fun to catch the "Easter eggs," some more blatant than others. Specifically to this series, aside from the underlying theme of adaptation (which even Dracula does, even if Dracula does not necessarily ever change), the shift in setting over the course of the series from the British political empire in Anno Dracula to the American economic empire in Johnny Alucard, intentional or not, is a nice touch too.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jan. 8th, 2014 12:05 am (UTC)
I would not normally be that interested in Victorian vampire alt-history, but as I loved Moriarty: The Hound of the D'Urbervilles, I have this on my TBR list.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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