Monday, March 18, 2013

Anno Dracula

Kim Newman

In London, 1888, two monsters are at large, capturing the imagination of the public. One is Count Dracula, who, after his defeat of Professor Abraham Van Helsing’s band of heroes, is married to Queen Victoria and spreads his vampirism throughout London. The other is a vampire killer in Whitechapel called Silver Knife, after the silver scalpel that he employs on vampire prostitutes. Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes Club finds himself on the case of the Whitechapel murderer (who is, of course, Jack the Ripper), a case that thrusts him deeper and deeper into worlds of darkness and forces him to team up with an unlikely partner, vampire Geneviève Dieudonné.

Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula is filled with political intrigue, action, and an abundance of historical and literary characters. Although the story is fast-paced, with an exciting and sometimes gory plot line, part of the fun of the novel is cataloguing the who’s who of vampires and discovering the fates of Stoker’s original characters.

Kim Newman’s novel and the series that followed it capture the power and resilience of Dracula’s hold on our imaginations since it was first published in 1897. His depiction of Dracula as an omnipotent monarch who controls British society feeds on the cultural fascination attached to Stoker’s Dracula and suggests why the vampire will never truly die.

Readers should be advised that some knowledge of Stoker’s novel is useful. However, Newman’s new cast of characters is well-rounded and generates an entertaining mystery about which literary or historical figure claims the title of Jack the Ripper.

- Kat Bellamy

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