By: Kim Newman
Pub: Titan Books
424 pages and extras
Set in the Victorian London of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Anno Dracula imagines a world where the Count’s plans had come to fruition; rather than meet his end against Van Helsing and his heroic band, he had become Price Consort to Queen Victoria.
It is the most terrible year of our Lord 1888 and vampirism sweeps through London, and the British Empire, as the un-dead come out of the shadows. Old vampires have taken positions of power and much of the populace becomes freshly turned, from the inhabitants of the lowest slum to the residents of Downing Street.
Yet the world turns slowly, and not everyone has taken to the presence of the un-dead. Religious crusades preach against the presence of these unholy creatures either in the streets and on the throne. On the Sussex Downs agitators and incontinences to the Prince Consort are kept in a concentration camp. On the streets of Whitechapel the “Silver Knife” is committing bloody murder after bloody murder, his victims exclusively the un-dead prostitutes who work the benighted streets.
The “Silver Knife” case soon becomes a nexus of political intrigue, dragging in parties from across the city each keen to see it reach their own desired conclusion. At the centre of this increasingly tangled web is Charles Beauregard, right hand of the Diogenes Club, and Geneviève Dieudonné, herself an elder vampire.
Kim Newman weaves the characters of Stoker’s Dracula together with the appropriated tale of the Jack the Ripper killings, while blending in both his own characters and many nods, winks and knowing asides to vampires throughout fiction and pop culture, as well as characters from the larger mass of Victorian fiction. In some ways the book is similar too Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in the style with which this crosspollination is carried off.
The book certainly straddles genres, being part crime novel, Victorian AU, and horror. These elements combine to make the book a fantastic read. The elements fit together smoothly, from the brilliantly realized London slipping into the grip of the un-dead, to the nature of some of the vampires themselves (a far cry from sparkling).
Aside from the main body of the story itself, originally printed in 1992, this latest edition being something of a director’s cut, the book also contains almost 120 pages of extra material, from annotations and an afterword, to a screen play and articles.
A fantastic read, for fans of any of the genres encompassed, and the start of a series of books, tracing the Count down the years, and his corkscrew progress though Kim Newman’s unique version of world history.