Anno Dracula

January 11, 2015 at 11:47 am (Reads) (, , , )

Anno DraculaAnno Dracula by Kim Newman

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With a lot of books, the premise is enough to sell me on the idea of reading them.  Anno Dracula is one of those books.  The novel is set in 1888, where Dracula has wed the widowed Queen Victoria, thus legalizing vampirism and making it more or less acceptable.  Dr. Alan Seward, however, still harbors a lot of anger toward Dracula for killing Lucy, and takes it upon himself to begin ridding Whitechapel of the vampire prostitutes populating that area.  That he has to remove vital organs and mutilate the bodies to bring on a true death just means that Dr. Seward has become Jack the Ripper.

(This isn’t a spoiler, by the way; this all takes place in the first chapter of the book.)

From that point forward, Newman begins including historical vampire figures, as well as many, many fictional vampires.  He includes some annotations at the end of the novel to give hints at who the fictional vampires are and who created them, and also gives some insight into how he developed the story.  Inspector Lestrade is present in the story, but Holmes himself is not, because, Newman tells us, had Holmes been in the story, he would have identified, trapped, and imprisoned Dracula within the first few chapters, thus leaving him with no story.  The entire novel, though, is a brilliant convention, brilliantly conceived.

Newman emulates the Victorian style of writing to set the book in its own time, which at first made me a little apprehensive.  I was afraid that pacing and plot would take a back seat to the style of the narrative, but it wound up being easily readable and easily understood.  His characterization was also deft, as he managed to create distinctive characters who you either liked or disliked as Newman would have you react to them.  I found myself invested in the main characters so much that I was eager for certain events to resolve the way I wanted them to.  That Newman managed to do all that, also while fitting the story in with Ripper-lore and many historical events, is pretty impressive.

This was a re-read for me, but it’s been so long since I’ve read it, that this was all new to me.  I remembered one scene from the end of the novel, and the general premise, but I was overjoyed to find such a good book and a good story inside.  I don’t think I appreciated it enough the first time around, but anyone who has a passing interest in vampires and Jack the Ripper should give it a whirl.  You may not recognize all the characters Newman appropriates for his story, but you’ll know enough of them to get a taste for where he’s going.

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