Anno Dracula

Kim Newman

Alternative history novels are a popular sub-genre of speculative fiction and Victorian London is an area often plundered by sf authors. In Anno Dracula Kim Newman has taken the London of Bram Stoker and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, added a batch of vampires and come up with a fast, dark mix of horror and speculation.

He works from the presumption that Count Dracula, rather than fleeing back to Transylvania (as in Bram Stoker's Dracula), has confronted and defeated Van Helsing, and then stayed in London to woo and wed the widowed Queen Victoria. As Prince Consort, he soon controls England and vampires, new and old soon overrun London.

Newman has created a literary rather than a historically accurate view of London and it is one full of life, grimy misery, poverty, fog and death. And it is death that gives us the plot: for against this background, we are witness to the unfolding Jack the Ripper story, where Jack preys not on 'warm' girls but on female 'new-born' vampires, and where he is chased by figures straight out of the gothic fiction of the 19th century. The plot is complicated by many, vampires and warm, conspiring and confusing matters up to a shock finale which stays in the mind long after the final page is turned.

The writing itself is a pleasant surprise: sharp and witty, well constructed and paced, it suited the gothic horror of its subject matter perfectly. Newmanıs text is littered with references to other works and it is this I think will either make you love this novel or hate it. I am a fan of gothic fiction: I have read Bram Stoker's Dracula, so I can recognise Lord Godalming, Seward, Mina; I have read Polidori's The Vampyre, so am familiar with Lord Ruthven; I lapped up Sherlock Holmes stories in my youth and so know Holmes, Mycroft and Moriarty, but I know many others have not and they will miss out somewhat: rather than recognising characters Newman has taken from the literature, they may be only confused and this is a pity as this is the only flaw in this interesting melodrama.

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