The recent reissue of Kim Newman's 1992 horror novel Anno Dracula (click here to reserve our copy of it) derives it's plot from Bram Stoker's classic Dracula novel, but with a twist, What if, Newman posits, the events of Stoker's book, specifically the climax, where Dracula is destroyed, didn't happen the way Stoker said it did?
Instead, in Newman's version, Dracula managed to defeat his adversaries and by 1888, marry Queen Victoria, conquer England and all it's colonies (like India) and rule over a nightmarish empire, where being a vampire is now a sign of upward social mobility. Dracula's England becomes a haven for vampires from around the world, several with their own distintive abilities and weaknessess, preying on "the warm".
Too bad Jack the Ripper comes along to spoil it. Seems the now-blood drinking prostitutes in London's Whitechapel district are being brutally murdered by an old enemy of Dracula's. The public, already terrified by their new oppressive leaders (it's mentioned that many "enemies" of the goverment, including fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes and real figures like George Bernard Shaw and Lord Tennyson, have been imprisoned in places like the Tower of London) and on the verge of rebellion, demand action.
Enter the Diogenes Club, a front for British Intelligence (and a familiar haunt for the fans of the aforementioned Sherlock Holmes), which assigns their operative Charles Beauregard to track down and capture/destroy the Ripper before England collapses completely. In his investigation, Beauregard teams up with the centuries-old vampire Genevieve Dieudonne, who has her own reasons for going after the Ripper. But once the Ripper is dealt with, what happens next?
A mix of speculative and alternative history, Anno Dracula is an ambitious, exciting and genuinely scary thriller. It's fun seeing fictional characters from various genres pop up (there are very subtle references to James Bond, Fu Manchu, various movie and TV vampires like Count Yorga and Barnabas Collins, and even the Lone Ranger!). But Newman also delivers a solid, suspenseful narrative and vividly creates a grim, depressing and dangerous London, where brutal murders and state-sanctioned impaleings are commonplace. (Did I mention that the novel is also very graphic in it's depiction of violence and sexual content? Don't look for any sparkly Twilight-like vampires here.) And the figure of Dracula himself, through off stage for most of the book, still manifests a malevolent presence that permeates throughtout the narrative, influencing the characters and situations that the reader sees.
Solid and suspenseful, Anno Dracula is well worth your time!