Jun 13, 2011

Anno Dracula - Vampire Book Review

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the publication of Kim Newman's Anno Dracula Titan Books has reissued this classic novel which posits the question, what if the Count (as imagined by Bram Stoker) had survived?

Below is my review written when the book was first released.

Newman offers a vivid recreation of the Victorian era, but with a sly twist. Jack the Ripper prowls Whitechapel killing prostitutes in a most brutal manner. But, as it turns out, this madman is Jack Seward, one of the vampire hunters known to devotee’s of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In Newman’s universe, however, Seward and his pals, Harker and Van Helsing, are defeated by Dracula. This Prince of Wallachia,  also known as Vlad Tepes is now Prince Consort, Lord Protector and, husband to Queen Victoria. For the elite of society it becomes important to cultivate prominent vampire friends of the Prince, and if possible to convince one of these creatures to “turn” them. This social game goes on at all levels. Even the prostitutes killed by Jack the Ripper are vampires - although a diseased, sickly variety -  whose lives remain as hellish as before.
There are many characters mixed up in the race to find the Ripper and stop the killings. Among these are two of note, one a “warm” police detective, McKenzie, who does his duty while cringing at the brutality of Dracula’s minions, and the other, Kostaki, a soldier companion of the Prince who “turned” at the same time, and goes about doing Dracula’s bidding - impaling still the  punishment of choice.  Yet in their efforts to track the Ripper, Kostaki and McKenzie find a grudging respect for one another.  Kostaki even demonstrates a glimmer of a conscience reawakened through his association with the mortal detective.
One of the most charming characters in recent vampire fiction is Genevieve,  who received her dark kiss 500 years before, making her even older than Vlad Tepes. This gives her a bit of an advantage in society for among vampires age is greatly revered. She works as a nurse among the poor, a ministering angel loved by warms and vampires alike. It is she along with her mortal lover Beauregard, who must in the end confront the evil Prince Dracula.
This story engages on many levels. Besides being literate and witty it describes the social swirls that pervaded the late nineteenth century. Newman  also gathers an ensemble of Victorian characters - historical and fictional. Part of the fun of reading this novel is seeing where they will pop up.  The author has created an engrossing, entertaining story that will appeal to a wide variety of readers. (A shorter, earlier version of this story appeared under the title Red Reign in the anthology, The Mammoth Book of Vampires, edited by Stephen Jones.) Review by Patricia Altner.

[Kim Newman wrote about the inspiration for Anno Dracula on Io9.com]


booklover0226 said...

I think I have this book! I'll check when I get home.

Patricia Altner said...

Hope you find it and have a chance to read it. Anno Dracula is such a favorite of mine.