Yet another geek blog

28 September 2011

Anno Dracula by Kim Newman

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In Short

Dracula expanded into an alternative history. Overcoming the resistance detailed by Bram Stoker, the Count establishes himself in London and enthrals Victoria. Vampirism spreads unchecked through the aristocracy and then to all levels of society. As Royal Consort, Dracula is effective ruler of an Empire on which the sun will never rise.

Things to Like

Newman creates a pleasingly detailed world but does not let the detail overwhelm the story. He uses the device of mixing familiar fictional characters together with actual history. (This technique was first popularised by Philip José Farmer and later taken to extreme by Alan Moore in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

Familiar events, such as the Whitechapel murders and the Indian mutiny, still happen but for different reasons.

There is always some nice social insight to be had from the way that the vampirism exaggerates Victorian society. The expectational nature of the class system is made explicit. And because the ruling classes spend half their time in coffins they literally cannot see the world they rule. The only problem that they are aware of is a lack of obedience which needs to be addressed by placing more vampires into positions of power. Where they will stay forever.

Things not to Like

Another problem is the Diogenese Club. This is the utterly dull and unsociable gentlemen’s club from the Sherlock Holmes stories. This works perfectly as a cover for a secret society and that is how Newman uses it. The problem, is that it is a secret society that absolutely every seems to know about. One of the main characters in the book is known to be an agent of the club even by people who know nothing else about him. It would have been far better to either keep the club in the shadows or used the masons instead.

Another problem is that because vampirism is normalised, it loses most of its horror. There is shock-horror, but very little of the unsettling-horror of the novels that these characters came from.

Things it is Like

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentleman by Alan Moore
  • The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder

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posted by Yet Another Geek @ Wednesday, September 28, 2011

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