Tag Archives: Kim Newman

Review: “Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard” by Kim Newman

Title: Johnny Alucard
Author: Kim Newman (His site here.)
Series: Anno Dracula #4
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Titan Books, 2013

At last! The long awaited final* novel in Kim Newman’s excellent vampire pastiche series is here! And it was superb, let me tell you. Only the original novel was better, in my humble opinion. Maybe it was because I got more of the references this time without resorting to Google, given that I’m not an expert on WWI literature and films or post-WWII Italian cinema whereas this time the action was mostly set in the USA and within the last forty years. Still not really my era (I wouldn’t even have been reading yet when the novel ends), but the setting was still much more familiar than the last couple have been. The format this time was a little different, instead of doing a straightforward novel Mr. Newman has been teasing his fans for the past decade with shorter novellas carrying the story forward. Now they’re finally gathered in one place, ostensibly edited a bit so they fit together better, and with the last couple finally seeing the light of day. Or night, if you’re nosferatu.

In Anno Dracula, that vampire prince forcibly pulled the nosferatu out of the shadows of the world forever when he seduced and married Queen Victoria. London became a veritable safe haven for the undead, and they flocked there from the far corners of the world. Newborn nosferatu swelled in numbers, spurred not only by Dracula himself but by countless other literary and film vampires, from Orlok to Lestat and everyone in between. Eventually Dracula’s reign was ended, and he was forced to flee the country, landing in the Austro-Hungarian Empire where he became a close adviser to the Kaiser. During WWI he engineered a program to transform The Bloody Red Baron and other German flying aces into an unbeatable vampiric air force before being thwarted by the Allies and once again fleeing his pursuers. During Hitler’s purge of all nosferatu whose bloodlines he deemed “tainted,” Dracula forged an uneasy alliance with his former enemies and fomented revolution in Transylvania in order to open up another front against the Axis. For his services, he was given a castle in Italy after the war and forced to quietly accept his exile. In Dracula Cha Cha Cha (1959) Dracula was destroyed on the eve of his wedding, seemingly ending the epic saga of his life and leaving the world to wonder who if anyone would assume his mantle as unofficial (yet undisputed) leader of vampire-kind. Many have tried, and thus far all have failed. Johnny Alucard (as he will come to be known) intends to succeed…but not quite how anyone expects.

Whereas previous entries to the series have focused in tightly on one event or short period of time, Johnny Alucard covers a broad range, tracking the course of Johnny Alucard from 1976 in Transylvania to 1991 in Hollywood. Observe with Kate Reed Francis Ford Coppola’s seemingly-cursed attempts to forge a big-budget Dracula film in a third-world country!** Catch up with Genvieve as she assists Philip Marlowe in rescuing a young girl from the cult of Scientology Immortology! Revisit Penny in New York as she serves as assistant to the infamous artist and vampire Andy Warhol! Watch with the world as Kate Reed enters the besieged Transylvanian embassy, overtaken by terrorists/freedom fighters who want to see Transylvania become a dedicated homeland for the undead! See Orson Welles’ doomed attempts to make his own Dracula film! See the US military’s vampire corps unseat the Ceausescu regime! See the climax of Johnny Alucard’s machinations as the world watches events transpiring at the Concert For Transylvania! Featuring cameos (as well as more substantial roles) from such historical personages as Coppola, Warhol, Welles, and countless Hollywood folk, as well as literary and film characters from “The Dude” to Blade and Hellboy. Like I said above, I really enjoyed this entry in the series, more than any of the two previous sequels. To explain further would be to spoil the overarching plot (all that above was mostly backdrop), and I’ll firmly resist that urge. Just ask yourself, how does Dracula constantly keep coming back in the movies despite being destroyed at the end of each?

CONTENT: R-rated language. Strong violence, vampiric and otherwise. Quite a bit of sexual innuendo (not usually explicit), including prostitution. Drug content, if that offends you. Also…vampires. Some would consider that occultic, although Newman’s vampires have very little magic about them aside from some telepathy and an inexplicable lack of reflection.

*So far, anyway…I’m not convinced we’re done. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking….
**Yes, this replaces Apocalypse Now, complete with all the attendant disasters on set.

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Review: “Anno Dracula: Dracula Cha Cha Cha” by Kim Newman

Title: Dracula Cha Cha Cha
Author: Kim Newman
Series: Anno Dracula #3
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Titan Books, 2012

This is a shorter review I did a while back on Goodreads, before I really found my footing on this reviewing thing. I’d like to think I could do better now, but it’s in that awkward spot where I’ve read it too recently to want to reread it, but too long ago to review it properly.

The third installment of Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula series! I really enjoyed this, for the most part. Still not as good as the first, original entry in the series, but at the same time it was better than the second book which I thought fell a little flat. Newman once again populates his world with a host of borrowed literary, film and historical characters, this time drawing heavily from Itallian horror and crime films in addition to the Bond franchise. (That’s right–Bond! With that cover, are you actually surprised? But I’ll get to that….) A lot of the non-Bond characters and references went right over my head, not being all that into Italian cinema, but that’s not too big an issue.

The year is 1959. World War II is over and behind us, and Dracula has settled his exiled house in a Roman castle given him by the Allies in recognition for his aid in defeating the Nazis. But now it seems Dracula is no longer content with his exile as his marriage to the undead princess Asa Vadja is announced. This is obviously viewed with concern by Charles Beauregard, now over a hundred years old and nearing his end, also in Rome where he can keep an eye on his old enemy. Genvieve and Kate are also concerned, but their main focus is Charles’ failing health as he refuses to turn and join them in undeath. Charles’ old firm, the Diogenes Club, has sent one of their top operatives to Rome to investigate the proceedings–“Bond, Hamish Bond.” (Yes, Hamish is the Scots form of James….) Many 007-related references ensue, from other literary characters descibed as Bond’s classic villains (Frankenstein’s Monster is both Jaws and Oddjob, for example) to phrases and titles being worked in (“You only live twice,” says Bond on his experience turning vampire). And against all this, someone is flamboyantly killing vampire Elders…..

CONTENT: Mild language. Sexual innuendo, not too overly explicit. Some violence, vampiric and otherwise, perhaps a little disturbing at times.

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Review: “Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron” by Kim Newman

Title: The Bloody Red Baron
Author: Kim Newman
Series: Anno Dracula #2
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Titan Books, 2012

This is a shorter review I did a while back on Goodreads, before I really found my footing on this reviewing thing. I’d like to think I could do better now, but it’s in that awkward spot where I’ve read it too recently to want to reread it, but too long ago to review it properly.

This second book wasn’t quite as good as the first one, but that’s to be expected. I thought Genvieve should actually appear as a character instead of remaining absent, a change the author himself apparently wishes he had made based on his commentary. Still, it was most definitely worth reading if you liked the first book, and I am a devoted fan of this series. In fact, I’m reaching the conclusion that I’m a great fan of Kim Newman’s writing across the board….

Here we have the world we left in at the end of Anno Dracula, twenty-odd years later and embroiled in a world war with vampires serving on both sides. New technologies are being tested, from chemical warfare to the newfangled aeroplane. Dracula serves as the Kaiser’s right hand, some say ruling from behind the throne. Charles Beauregard is back again to oppose the designs of the chief vampire, joined once more by stubborn war correspondant Kate Reed as well as the Diogenes Club’s newest addition, the young operative Edwin Winthrop. Will these intrepid heroes be able to discover Dracula’s designs in time to foil them? Or will Dracula and his vampire flyers led by the Bloody Red Baron himself, Baron Richtofen, triumph over the Allies?

CONTENT: Violence, including vampirism. Mild sexual content, not too explicit I don’t believe. Mild language.

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Review: “The Book Of Cthulhu II” edited by Ross E. Lockhart

I’ve been on a bit of a Lovecraft kick lately, first reading the man himself, then Alan Moore’s disturbing homage. And it all got its impetus from The Book Of Cthulhu II (*****), which I won via the Goodreads FirstReads program. (My review is not influenced by this fact, for the record.) I figured I should read the real thing before picking up either of the derivatives. Sad to say, I haven’t had any luck finding a copy of The Book Of Cthulhu I, but oh well. Most of these are authors I’d not heard of before, and all save a couple are ones I’d yet to sample. Kim Newman wrote the stellar Anno Dracula series, among other things, and I am a Neil Gaiman devotee. I’ve not read all of his work yet, but not for lack of trying.

This is an anthology of Lovecraft-inspired works from a wide range of authors. I’ll list and comment below, only commenting on plot when I think it necessary. Its a bit tough to mention plot for a short story without spoilers, so….

  • Neil Gaiman, Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar; I had read this one before in a collection of Gaiman tales (don’t remember which one), and it didn’t make much sense then as I had never read HPL. Now I have, and I had a much greater appreciation for the story. That said, not nearly as great as A Study In Emerald.
  • Caitlin R. Kiernan, Nor The Demons Down Under The Sea; The writing style here was a bit confusing at first–Ms. Kiernan is not afraid of a sentence fragment masquerading as a full sentence if it helps set her scene. But once the scene was set this proved a very evocative tale.
  • John R. Fultz, This Is How The World Ends; Fultz sketches a brief vignette of Cthulu’s rise from the deeps to swallow the world, and I must say his vision is frankly terrifying.
  • Paul Tobin, The Drowning At Lake Henpin; Most of these are Lovecraftian, but this is the first one I’ve seen that could have been written by Lovecraft himself.
  • William Browning Spencer, The Ocean And All Its Devices; I’m still not completely sure I understand what Spencer is saying about what lives in the water just offshore from this beachfront hotel, but I know I don’t want to meet it.
  • Livia Llewellyn, Take Your Daughters To Work; This one succeeded in disturbing me. That’s all I’ll say.
  • Kim Newman, The Big Fish; I love Kim Newman. Newman is a past master of the literary pastiche, here presenting a sequel to Lovecraft’s Shadow Over Innsmouth while at the same time doing a Sam Spade-type character (maybe Spade himself, the protagonist is never named….did Spade live in San Francisco?) AND roping in his recurring characters Edwin Winthrop and Genvieve Dieudonné from the Diogenes Club stories.* Which I am just reminded that I should get around to reading…..
  • Cody Goodfellow, Rapture Of The Deep; A corporate investigation into a potential source of endless energy on the seafloor turns to terror when an ex-Soviet psychic and his unwilling protegé take an astral visit to sunken R’lyeh….
  • A. Scott Glancy, Once More From The Top; An aged Marine recounts the horror he and his fellows experienced at the Battle Of Innsmouth. I quite enjoyed this one….though I don’t recall the Deep Ones having Shoggoths in the original story. Maybe that came from one of HPL’s stories I haven’t read yet…..Anyway, gonna try and track down the anthology this originated in.
  • Molly Tanzer, The Hour Of The Tortoise; An exiled young lady returns to her ancestral home, thought cursed by the surrounding villagers, to find her illegitimate father on his deathbed and something amiss about the house….
  • Christopher Reynaga, I Only Am Escaped Alone To Tell Thee; Christopher Reynaga recasts Moby Dick as a tale of Captain Ahab hunting Cthulhu in order to buy the world more time before his rise.
  • Ann K. Schwader, Objects From The Gilman-Waite Collection; A creepy though not unpredictable tale of a man entering a museum exhibit featuring the coral and gold jewelry from Shadow Over Innsmouth.
  • Gord Sellar, Of Melei, Of Ulthar; I’m still not sure I understand this one. Melei is visiting other worlds in her sleep, one of which appears to be post-Cthulhu New York. I can’t figure out, however, whether she exists in the far-distant past or the regressed future….in either case, it was an intriguing tale.
  • Mark Samuels, A Gentleman From Mexico; This was an outstanding idea, and I literally laughed out loud when I realized what was going on. I didn’t find the ending as strong as the middle, but it was very like what Lovecraft himself might have written as the ending.
  • W.H. Pugmire, The Hands That Reek And Smoke; Very creepy. Not really my thing, but creepy.
  • Matt Wallace, Akropolis; Behold, the Great Old Ones are returning, and they have sent their emissaries to prepare the way for them…..A great story here.
  • Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette, Boojum; This was one of my favorites, a real surprise find. Living spacecraft, starfaring pirates, evil aliens who collect human brains for their own sinister purposes…..it’s all here. Quality science-fiction! I’m going to track down the anthology it was originally written for….I was a bit hazy on most of the Lovecraft connections in this one, as I’d not read the relevant tales.
  • Jonathan Wood, The Nyarlathotep Event; Agent Arthur Wallace of MI37 goes up against Nyarlathotep, an ancient entity from a dimension representing humanity’s collective fears, and he does it with a snarky sense of humor and a hilarious narrative voice. I literally laughed out loud several times while reading it, and plan to track down the author’s other stories featuring the same protagonists.
  • Stanley C. Sargent, The Black Brat Of Dunwich; A surprising tale here, as Sargent turns the entire HPL story The Dunwich Horror on its head. Very fun, and HPL himself might be a fan of this one, but it would help to have read the original tale first.
  • Fritz Leiber, The Terror From The Depths; I actually forgot for a while that this wasn’t actually a Lovecraft story. I don’t think I’ve ever seen (by HPL or anyone else) so comprehensive and cohesive an ode to the Cthulhu Mythos….Well done.
  • Orrin Grey, Black Hill; A quick read, a mite predictable, but decent nonetheless.
  • Michael Chabon, The God Of Dark Laughter; A small-town sheriff investigates the ritual murder of a clown, possibly uncovering ties to an ancient and unholy cult. I really enjoyed this one, and I think I may have to look up more of Michael Chabon’s work.
  • Karl Edward Wagner, Sticks; An incredibly creepy tale of an artist who discovers an ancient abandoned cottage that continues to haunt his dreams….Again, I really enjoyed this.
  • Laird Barron, Hand Of Glory; Less actually scary, not incredibly Lovecraftian, but a good story nonetheless. Mobland hitman Johnny Cope has a problem. It seems that an old enemy of his father has sent goons to kill him. They weren’t incredibly successful, but they did manage to get his ire up. Now Johnny wants to know why….

On the whole, I loved this collection. A lot of the stories were excellent, but like with any collection you’ll have some that were better than others. I love Neil Gaiman, but given my choice I’d put in A Study In Emerald over Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar. Its simply a better tale–though, I’ll allow, perhaps not a better tribute to the original Lovecraft. Some of the stories I flat-out disliked, but that was probably a matter of taste. Certainly they are different than the ones cited by other reviewers as having fallen flat for them. A few of the stories, good as they were on their own, probably would have been enhanced by a more thorough knowledge of Lovecraft’s works. I’ve only read a very small selection as of this writing. I plan to remedy that in the near future….I very much recommend picking up this book if you ever get the chance. And in case you are interested, you can find the official website of Ross E. Lockhart, the editor of this book, here.

*Technically, the Diogenese Club stories happen in a separate world from the Anno Dracula novels, but they are mirrors of each other and feature the same characters. The prime difference seems to be that in the Diogenes Club stories Dracula was actually defeated as scheduled in his original book, whereas in the Anno Dracula world he was triumphant.

Content: This is a horror anthology, so from the get-go you know its not going to be appropriate for children. Bloody horror violence. Sexual references, including the implication that a couple characters are lesbians. The protagonist in another tale makes her living as a writer of Victorian-era pornography, and mostly non-explicit excerpts of her work are included. She also refers to several sexual encounters of her own, in generally non-explicit but incredibly suggestive terms. Language varies from story to story, but some at least are R-rated.

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Review: “Anno Dracula” by Kim Newman

The year is 1888, the city is London, and a killer stalks the fog-shrouded streets. In the darkened streets of Whitechapel someone is killing prostitutes….vampire prostitutes. And neither the Queen nor Prince-Consort Vlad Tepes Dracula are amused….

CoverYeah, that’s right. In the world of Anno Dracula Vampires stalk the streets of London, and Dracula sits on the throne. Kim Newman has taken a story that we all more or less know in one form or another and turned it on its head. This is a tale of a world in which Van Helsing and his band of makeshift vampire slayers failed. Now Dracula has married Queen Victoria and rules England as the Prince-Consort. Vampirism runs rampant througout London (and presumably the rest of the land as well) as elder vampires are able to “come out of the closet” and be accepted for what they are while newborns multiply at an alarming rate. Van Helsing’s head adorns a spike atop Buckingham Palace. Quincey Morris and Jonathon Harker are likewise slain, casualties of the awful night when events went awry. Mina Harker is a vampire, part of Dracula’s court. Arthur Godalming has likewise turned and is a rising star in the vampire-controlled government. And Doctor Jack Seward’s sanity is slowly slipping as he works in a Whitechapel charity ward, slipping out at night with silvered scalpel to commit the horrible murders history will remember as the work of Jack the Ripper. Original characters Charles Beauregard, an agent of the Diogenes Club (introduced as Mycroft Holmes’ club by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and here serving as the precursor to 007’s Universal Exports) and Genevieve Dieudonne, Doctor Seward’s vampiric assistant, both find themselves caught up in the hunt for Silver Knife or The Ripper as tensions between the turned and the warm threaten to tear London to pieces….

The real genius of Kim Newman’s creation, however, is that London has become haven to every literary vampire who could conceivably have been placed there, as well as a variety of other characters from the time period. Both Doctors Jekyll and Moreau show up, for instance, as do a variety of legitimate historical characters in various stages of life or undeath (Oscar Wilde has turned, for one.) With Dracula on the throne, vampires no longer have to hide and they for the most part have flocked to his banner. Mostly Victorian-era creati0ns, there are nonetheless more contemporary characters as well. Anne Rice’s Lestat de Lioncourt makes a brief appearance, as does the villain of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. In this, Anno Dracula follows in the footsteps of Philip Jose Farmer’s Wold Newton novels (which I apparently need to read) and Alan Moore’s League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Ingenious in its conception, but it can be offputtingly sexual in my opinion. Read at your own discretion.)

I first ran across mention of this book in a work on Dracula where in an appendix the authors gave an overview of notable works featuring that undead nosferatu. I idly noted that it sounded like a book worth reading, then promptly forgot about it. I then found it at Barnes and Noble on its rerelease, with a prominant endorsement from Neil Gaiman on the spine and front cover. I don’t know about you, but when Neil Gaiman recommends something I pay attention. I am exceedingly glad I did! I plan to now track down and read the rest of Newman’s bibliography, starting with the just-released sequel Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron.

First off, read Bram Stoker’s original novel. You won’t regret it. Its a classic for a reason, and you will need to know the story and characters therein to get the most out of Anno Dracula. If you are a hopeless cretin and refuse, at least do the CliffNotes or something. Seriously. Then read this book.

Given the premise, this is obviously not a story for children. Jack the Ripper’s victims were prostitutes, and we get to meet several of these women as characters so sexual content and violence are a given in any story exploring that mystery. The Ripper killings were quite gruesome, and while not exceedingly gory in its descriptions this element is not glossed over in this book. Vampirism tends to be rather sensual, and as noted there is a bit of sexual content–not too explicit, but present nonetheless. Also some foul language, but not too gratuitous as I recall. Definitely worth a read!

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