Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Review: Anno Dracula by Kim Newman

Anno Dracula by Kim Newman This is a strange review for me.  I actually have read this book before, but it's been about 19 years.  (When did I get this old?)  This book came out in 1992 and I read it during my phase of Dracula obsession when I was about 13-14.  But over the years I got this book confused with another Dracula book I read, so I actually had no memory of this book at all.  I heard it mentioned as a steampunk book and thought, "Huh?"  So I decided to reread it.

So.  The setting for the book is London, 1888, and the events of Dracula ended with Dracula victorious.  So victorious that he ends up married to Queen Victoria and vampires now occupy most of the positions of power in England.  Except someone starts killing vampire prostitutes in Whitechapel, which brings to a boil the unrest of the non-vampire populace.

So let's tackle the steampunk question first.  Is this a steampunk book?  No.  It's really not.  It's a book set in an alternate Victorian London.  It's Victorian horror, Victorian fantasy.  But there really aren't any of the elements that we really look for in steampunk.  There is no advanced technology of any kind, no actual science fiction elements.   However, it IS a book that I think some steampunks will really appreciate, and the setting is certainly inspirational for steampunk.

My favorite thing about this novel is the way the author very cleverly references just about every significant character of Victorian pulp fiction.  He's also very knowledgeable about the Jack the Ripper murders and the historical Dracula.  Those happen to be two topics that I know a lot about myself, and so I can recognize all the little bits he's included.  For example, he includes several known Ripper suspects, and mentions a bunch more.  That's just pure fun for an armchair Ripperologist like myself.

I'm not sure if all the details included that reference both historical and fictional individuals and events would be overwhelming to a reader unfamiliar with them.  I think that I was somewhat overwhelmed by this novel when I read it at such a young age, both by the period details and by some of the horror.  But if you are familiar with the period, the Ripper case, Dracula, and the literature of the time (Jekyll and Hyde, characters from the Sherlock Holmes stories and various others make cameos), then I highly recommend this book.  The references are sort of extra exciting because they aren't always spelled out for the reader.  It's completely possible to miss Professor Moriarity, for example, unless you're already familiar with him since he is never named.

As a novel, it's quite exciting and page turning.  The second half in particular rushes towards a climax.  It takes a little while to situate yourself in this alternate history and acquaint yourself with the various narrators, but once you do, it's an enjoyable ride.

I perhaps should mention that this is very much a horror novel.  There is gore and violence and some quite disturbing sections.  So it's recommended for fans of the genre and adults.  There's also a sequel set in WWI that I'm looking forward to getting my hands on.


4 comments:

  1. I have heard of this book before and have been meaning to give it a go, it's actually been in my basket at the Book Depository for a while, I just have to remember my password to log in and buy it ha ha.

    Thanks for the review!

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  2. I just read a review in Publisher's Weekly for "Clockwork Scarab" by Colleen Gleason, it comes out Sept. 17, 2013. That really sound like something you'd enjoy. Amazon offers "look in side" & it even sounded like something my very picky librarian self would read.
    Boringlibrarian in Waco

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    1. Thanks for the heads up. I'll add it to my list. :)

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