Off the Shelf

“Anno Dracula”

By Marcus Pan

In 1897 Bram Stoker wrote a novel that would forever define and historically alter the mythology of the vampire. Like Mary Shelly redefined the mad scientist, Stoker redefined the undead nosferatu, forever changing the landscape of gothic horror and murgatroyd style. Movies from then on would depict the vampire not as a zombie-like shambling creature, but a more sinister and conniving soul with an intelligence and evilness unmatched.

In 1992, the Stoker version of Dracula finds itself rewritten similarly to what science fiction authors have done with recreations of World War II and alternate reality endings. Taking Stoker’s original Dracula as a starting point and mixing in numbers upon numbers of gothic horror creatures and people, Kim Newman’s novel Anno Dracula gives us an alternate ending to Stoker’s version of the Prince of Vampires. In Anno Dracula, the count works his way into the minds and lives of the people of England through their Queen, transforming her into an ugly caricature of her former self after he turns her with the dark kiss. This places him as a Prince Consort to the throne of England – so long as she’s alive and under his spell.

The repercussions throughout the kingdom are far reaching and terrible. England begins to feed on itself, and Kim’s version of Dracula, Vlad Tepes, as a creature of a poisoned bloodline (and not the father in darkness of all vampires, mind) takes a dramatic take to the lives of the nosferatu as a whole throughout Europe and the world. The scene in England begins to take on the scope of racial and equality issues of the modern day real world and near outward revolt begins to tear the country apart as the doomed bloodline of Dracula eats the country from within with its perversions.

The story focuses mainly around a vampire slayer in England, using the insurrectionist time as a shield to his madness. Historically labeled as Jack the Ripper, the killer moves throughout the dark foggy streets of England putting an end to cheap vampire whores with his silver laced scalpel. Mixing in historical figures like Lady Bathory, Chardagnac and others into the story as mentionable characters, while not engraving them into the story itself, creates a novel that is large in scope and historically sound, therefore increasing its believability tenfold.

The chase of Jack the Ripper centers on two of our main characters, human Charles Beauregard and vampire Genevieve Dieudonne, and lead them like puppets through the city. The mysterious Diogenes Club puts Charles on the case and watches from afar, using the couples eventual discovery of the crimes as an excuse to get Beauregard close enough to the now-enslaved Queen to forever change the kingship of Prince Consort Dracula in a most heroic and unexpected manner – even if it makes perfect sense as an afterthought.

The novel takes on the form of a gothic mystery at first, but winds us through the laces of royal lineage and, of course, nosferatu bloodlines. It doesn’t get as intrinsic in the study of vampire families as Delore’s Confession[1], so don’t worry that it’s going to read like a soap opera style family tree. These are intrinsic plotlines to the underlying story, but are kept from muddying the swiftly moving chase of the Ripper and the background schemes of mysterious clubs like the Diogenes, which can be compared to Illuminati or Freemason groups within this novel’s 1880s timeframe.

Well written, albeit a slight long, but then again I’m not quite sure how such a largely encompassing story could have been told any shorter. A good read for anyone who enjoys gothic horror and a very interesting take on Dracula, giving him a much darker appeal and treating him with more disdain than Stoker did. Dracula here is not so heroic…instead portrayed as a sicker version of what we’re used to. And the idea of vampires and warm-bodies living together in a society, each treating the other side with a barely tolerable level of disdain, was quite interesting. A good idea taken to a great level.

“Anno Dracula” by Kim Newman
Copyright © 1992 by Kim Newman
First Avon Books
ISBN: 0-380-72345-X
Library of Congress Card: 93-21934
[1] Reviewed in Legends #90.

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