Anno Dracula (Book)
Written by Kim Newman
Published by Titan Books
I read a lot. I primarily read horror. It's been that way for decades. Sometimes, though, I miss things. Overlook them. Somehow, I missed Kim Newman's Anno Dracula when it was first released almost 20 years ago.
Titan has fixed that problem with their re-release of Newman's masterpiece in a new, enhanced edition. Did I really just use the "M" word? Yes, yes I did.
Anno Dracula is very likely the best vampire novel I've ever read. I said it and I'd say it again if I had to.
It's simply one of the cleverest books I've read. Newman takes one simple conceit: What would have happened if Dracula would have been successful at that moment when Van Helsing and his troupe of hunters confronted him for the first time as he was turning Mina? What if he'd taken the upper hand, turned Mina, killed some of the hunters and routed the rest, and ended the immediate threat to his plans for the new world?
Newman extrapolates this to a rather extreme and highly entertaining end: Vlad Dracul becomes the prince consort to Queen Victoria, which places him over the British empire at a key point in history. Spreading his influence and his powerful, if diseased, vampiric bloodline, it's only a short time before the reality of vampires is out in the open and England has become a vampire nation with a shaky peace between ruling bloodsuckers and a 'warm' populace.
It's now 1888. Someone is killing prostitutes in Whitechapel. This is causing a great deal of upheaval as it draws attention toward the social inequalities of the time. In this version of history, however, the prostitutes are vampires, and the Ripper is 'down on vampires and shant stop killing them'. A decorated secret agent and a vampire girl more ancient than Dracula set out to discover the identity of the killer in a romp that takes them through dozens of literary properties as well as a historically accurate Ripper investigation.
Newman is an absolute genius, weaving historical Ripper figures like Sir Charles Warren and Inspector Abberline with fictional characters as far flung as Dr. Henry Jekyll and Fu Manchu. This, alone, would be entertaining, if only for the 'spot the reference' aspect. That he does this while telling an extremely fun tale of intrigue, adventure, and romance is phenomenal. This is a fun book, not just a brilliant exercise in historical revision and homage.
If you've read Anno Dracula before, there are still a heap of reasons to buy this edition. Titan has turned this into a literary version of a 'special edition' DVD release of a film. They've included almost 100 pages of extra features at the end of the novel. Included are an alternate ending to the novel, excerpts from the script to an aborted film version, an article on Dracula and the Ripper, and a short story featuring everyone's favorite nosferatu. There are also notes on each chapter that could be considered a 'director's commentary', discussing some of the references and providing a glimpse into the author's mind as he wrote the book.
This is a fantastic volume containing an amazing book, and no horror fan should be without it. It's just that simple. Titan is due to release the other Anno Dracula books Newman wrote, and I, for one, cannot wait. Go buy this book.
5 out of 5