Book Review: Anno Dracula

I’ve pimped this series on our podcast a couple of times, but having just finished book 3, I felt it was high time (indeed, long overdue) that I worked up a proper review for these books.  To start things off, let me just open with a quote from an acknowledged master of the craft:

“Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula is back in print, and we must celebrate. It was the first mash-up of literature, history and vampires, and now, in a world in which vampires are everywhere, it’s still the best, and its bite is just as sharp. Compulsory reading, commentary, and mindgame: glorious.” - Neil Gaiman

Let’s get through the obligatory publisher’s synopses first, so you have a foothold for what’s going on:

Book 1: Anno Dracula

It is 1888 and Queen Victoria has remarried, taking as her new consort Vlad Tepes, the Wallachian Prince infamously known as Count Dracula. Peppered with familiar characters from Victorian history and fiction, the novel follows vampire Geneviève Dieudonné and Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes Club as they strive to solve the mystery of the Ripper murders.

Anno Dracula is a rich and panoramic tale, combining horror, politics, mystery and romance to create a unique and compelling alternate history. Acclaimed novelist Kim Newman explores the darkest depths of a reinvented Victorian London.

This brand-new edition of the bestselling novel contains unique bonus material, including a new afterword from Kim Newman, annotations, articles and alternate endings to the original novel.

Book 2: The Bloody Red Baron


It is 1918 and Graf von Dracula is commander-in-chief of the armies of Germany and Austria-Hungary. The War of the Great Powers in Europeis also a war between the living and the undead. Caught up in the conflict, Charles Beauregard, an old enemy of Dracula, his protegé Edwin Winthrop,and intrepid vampire reporter Kate Reed go head-to-head with the lethal vampire flying machine that is the Bloody Red Baron… In the brand-new novella Vampire Romance, Geneviève Dieudonné,newly returned to England, infiltrates a singular vampire gathering in the service of the Diogenes Club.

A brand-new edition, with additional novella, of the critically acclaimed, bestselling sequel to Anno Dracula. Written by popular novelist and movie critic Kim Newman, The Bloody Red Baron takes the story into the 20th century.

Book 3: Dracula Cha Cha Cha

Written by award-winning novelist Kim Newman, this is a brand-new edition, with additional 40,000 word never-before-seen novella, of the popular third installment of the Anno Dracula series, Dracula Cha Cha Cha.

Rome. 1959. Count Dracula is about to marry the Moldavian Princess Asa Vajda – his sixth wife. Journalist Kate Reed flies into the city to visit the ailing Charles Beauregard and his vampire companion Geneviève. Finding herself caught up in the mystery of the Crimson Executioner who is bloodily dispatching vampire elders in the city, Kate discovers that she is not the only one on his trail…

For those uninitiated into the Wold Newton Universe, consider an all-encompassing crossover world between the genre greats of film and literature, such as Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen… only bigger.  Basically, anything goes.  Kim Newman’s world of Anno Dracula is right along those same lines, so much so that there’s actually a dedicated page at the WNU site to help people identify who’s who within these pages.  Essentially this is a fanboy’s (or fangirl’s) wildest geeky dream come true when it comes to character mashup events.  Then you add in that Mr. Newman has an uncanny ability to craft a tale that’s both fun and absurd, and yet easily some of the best written vampire fiction you’re likely to read.  We all know that when it comes to vampires, books and film have the same problem: you’ll go through a couple thousand of them before you find one of astounding quality.  Look no further; if vampires are your game, these books are for you.

Within these pages, there are a few things you will not find.  For example, you will not find vampires that sparkle, nor will you find an overly-sappy romance.  This is not to say that there is no love story to be had, but it certainly doesn’t take center stage, and what is there evolves over the course of the series, slowly and in the background.  So what do you find?  Blood, gore, parallel history, and pulpy adventure, the likes of which has been missing from this planet for a while now.

The lead characters the reader follows through these are Geneviève Dieudonné and Charles Beauregard, both of whom grow and evolve over the course of the stories.  Beauregard is an agent for Mycroft Holmes’ Diogenes Club, essentially the precursor to MI6.  Geneviève is a vampire even older than Dracula, hailing from the time of Joan of Arc.  Through both of these characters, we are given excellent counterpoints of perspective to the reign of Dracula as vampires go public and become an integrated part of society.  A little digging leads one to learn (if not already aware) that Geneviève’s original / alternate story is previously told as part of the Warhammer series, with Mr. Newman writing under the pen name Jack Yeovil.  An omnibus collection of those works are also available to buy.  Based on reviews I’ve seen, my understanding is you need not know anything about the Warhammer universe in order to enjoy it.  Mine should be arriving this week, and I can’t wait!

I was predisposed to enjoy these books anyway, given the subject matter, the mashups, and the parallel history offered here.  I got my hands on the first one back in the 90s, recommended to me by a friend, and it instantly rocketed into my short list of favorites.  About the time I learned there was a series, they were out of print.  The moment I learned of the reprints, I was all over these like ants at a picnic.  If the first two books aren’t enough fun, book 3 introduces Bond.  James, I mean, Hamish Bond, and anyone who’s kept up with this site knows what a fanboy I can be when it comes to 007.  But it’s not enough that these characters and stories exist.  For me, it’s all about the quality and fun, and Kim Newman delivers both in spades.  I’ll be the first to admit, there’s plenty of tongue-through-cheek level absurdity to be had in these books, and the author makes no apologies for it, nor should he.  I defy anyone not to read these without a stupid grin.  These books are gateway drugs to the much larger worlds of literature and film.  For what it’s worth, I recommend reading them the way I did.  First you read them quickly for the adventure, then you go back and learn the details of who’s who (trust me, you’ll want to do this since Mr. Newman just assumes you know or want to know these characters as well as he does – and he’s right; you’ll want to know), and then re-read them with this newfound geekery firmly in place.  Knowing virtually nothing, these books are highly entertaining.  The more you discover, the more fun you’ll have.  It’s a win-win all around, except that you may find yourself spending countless hours plowing through the internet, books, and forgotten horror movies, some of which should probably stay forgotten.  Only you can decide how to best feed the addiction once you crack the first novel.

For myself, book 4, Johnny Alucard, is already on my radar.  June 25, 2013, can’t come quickly enough.  In the meantime, I’ve been visiting Kim Newman’s official site to see what other goodies I can add to my collection.