Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 9-Oct-1994
Adapted from "Vampires in Print" in The Vampire's Crypt #9 (Spring 1994).
Review by Cathy Krusberg
Kim Newman. Anno-Dracula (London: Simon & Schuster, 1992; New York: Carroll & Graf, 1993).
Anno-Dracula had its genesis as the short story "Red Reign" in The Mammoth Book of Vampires (ed. Stephen Jones; Carroll & Graf, 1992). "Red Reign" has been, in Newman's own words, "extensively cannibalized" and "sneakily altered" to produce Anno-Dracula. The premise, however, remains the same. What if Count Dracula, instead of fleeing his adversaries in England, had overcome them? What if he had wooed and won Queen Victoria, making himself Prince Consort? What if, in his new-found power, he had then precipitated a social revolution in which vampirism became a condition not only acceptable but preferable to that of the "warm"?
In this alternate history, not everyone concurs on the desirability of the vampire condition. Dr. John Seward, for example, has set out on his own anti-vampire crusade. Officially he works at Toynbee Hall, a refuge for the destitute where even vampires can get medical treatment. But in his off-hours he wanders the streets of Whitechapel, silver-plated scalpel in hand. He seeks out toothsome ladies of the evening on whom he avenges himself for the loss of his Lucy with procedures he privately terms "deliveries." The activities of the mysterious vampire-slayer, dubbed "Silver Knife," soon draw attention from a number of quarters. Opposition of the warm and the undead has made Britain a powder-keg; such sparks as attacks aimed specifically at the undead, even those in the very dregs of society, could touch it off.
Thus Charles Beauregard finds himself called upon to serve the Queen. Not officially; the Diogenes Club (under whose auspices he works) does not act *officially*. That the Club represents high places, however, is known not only at the coroner's but among denizens of the underworld. Beauregard finds allies in powerful individuals who normally would oppose him: if the British Empire topples, so will the shadow empire of organized crime. Just as anxious, if less highly connected, is Genevieve Dieudonne: older than the Prince Consort and of a different vampiric bloodline, a charity worker familiar with the ways of Whitechapel; a caring, resolute woman. Between Silver Knife's work and her own, she finds herself caught in the midst of intrigue upon intrigue and is led to join forces with Beauregard in an alliance that comes to take on a personal as well as a professional dimension.
In the introduction to "Red Reign," editor Stephen Jones said, "while you are along for the ride, see how many references from movies, literature and history you can spot." The same applies twice over to Anno-Dracula. In an "Author's Note and Acknowledgements" at the end, Newman gives some of his sources for the more obscure names, but he has in fact ransacked British history, nineteenth century literature, and vampire literature and movies for allusions.(I think my favorite is the American reporter shouting into that new invention, the telephone: "We work for a *news*paper, we are supposed to print *news*!"). Anno-Draculas appeal, however, does not rest so much on such touches (however delightful they may be) as on its virtues as a tale well told. It is, quite simply, a *good* story, a story full of suspense and intrigue, plot twists and surprises, a story of characters worth caring about -- a story all the more impressive for having been handled so well by an author familiar with both the appropriate period of history and the right bodies of literature.