Thursday, 10 November 2011

'ANNO DRACULA' BY KIM NEWMAN...



The VV was recently standing on an underground platform at Paddington station when she noticed this stunning poster - in fact, it is the cover of a book originally published in 1992 and now re-issued all over again - and what a splendid  re-issue it is - and how had the VV not known of this vampire tale before?

Clearly, she had to make amends, buying the book immediately and entering an alternate Victorian world where the widowed Queen Victoria has married Vlad Tepes, Dracula, The Impaler, and society's ruling classes, from the new Prince Consort and Prime Minister down are made up of the usurping or new-born 'undead'. 

At the start of the novel there is a semblance of continuing order in the society parlours of Victorian London but is is soon clear that much is amiss. Riots are breaking out between those who choose to remain as 'warm' and the increasingly dominant vampires, with insurgents being locked away in isolated concentration camps, with spies from secret societies working alongside nobler vampire souls to try and overturn the rot taking place at the very centre of power - in short, on Victoria's throne.   

Kim Newman is a well known film critic and he clearly has a visual 'eye'. When reading Anno Dracula each scene is so vividly described that the reader almost feels as if he or she is watching on screen. There are many nuances from other works - whether literature or film - to enhance this adventure, come mystery, come downright 'bloody' horror. Oh yes, lots of horror and lots of sex (Mr Newman is not one for holding back) - with madams pandering children's blood, with prostitutes who have been 'turned' developing yet more virulent strains of diseases that may have lain dormant before, and with love scenes that have more recently been echoed in the televised series of the raunchy and wry modern-day vampire tale: True Blood such as in this example: 

Icy needles shocked him and, for a moment, he was in her body in her mind. The extent of her was asstonishing. Her memory receded into the dim distance like the course of a star in a far galaxy. He felt himself moving inside her, tasking his own blood on her tongue. Then he was himself again, shuddering.

'Stop me, Charles,' she said, red drops between her teeth. 'Stop me if it hurts.'

He shook his head.

For those aficionados of the vampire genre there are many prominent characters drawn from all the classics, from works by Bram Stoker, and Anne Rice, and R L Stevenson to name but a few who stride across Mr Newman's stage, beside actual historical characters - most notably Jack the Ripper, with allusions to Alan Moore's From Hell, and artists like Whistler and G F Watts, or poets such as Lord Tennyson - even John Merrick, the Elephant Man, who exhibits remarkable heroism in the book's explosive conclusion.  

If the VV has any reserves about this particular novel it might be that in Anno Dracula we have just about everything Victorian, including the kitchen sink, thrown in. But, Newman's style is knowing and arch, and it makes for a wonderful fusion of plot, and for many amusing 'asides' as well  - such as the scene where the smooth-faced, smooth-haired Dr Jeckyl is giving some evidence before a judge and the court illustrator who sketches his likeness finds his page covered with the image of a man whose face is more haggard, whose hair appears as a shaggy mess - in short the image of Mr Hyde.

Anno Dracula is just the beginning. Mr Newman's wonderful obsession goes on, more details of which can be read of here.

And for the most glorious taster, this trailer really encapsulates everything about the book. Bon appetite! 






4 comments:

  1. Thanks for this, I was wondering which book to read next and you've just made my mind up for me. :-) It sounds right up my street.

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  2. I had never heard of it, thanks for sharing. Sounds like an interesting read.

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  3. I've read it about a hundred times since the original publication. Wonderful book.

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  4. It's so 'densely' written isn't it - I'm not surprised. I think you might find something new every time you read.

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