From one incarnation of the King of Vampires to another.
Anno Dracula by Kim Newman is a book I’ve read probably a dozen or more times and it’s never yet failed to delight me. Each time I find something new or something I didn’t fully appreciate before. And, of course, it speaks to my love of references, which I believe I’ve mentioned before.
I first found a copy in my local library when I was in my teens, somewhere between fourteen and sixteen. I can remember asking my French teacher to help me translate the motto beneath the coat of arms on the cover of that particular edition.
I’ve owned a copy of it more or less ever since, and the sequels. It may have been the first book I read that acted as an alternate history (technically, future) to a fictional universe, but one that expanded it far beyond the original.
The premise is relatively simple but one that is taken to its most extreme conclusion. What would have happened if Van Helsing, Jonathan Harker and their assorted compatriots had not driven Dracula out of England, as they do in the original novel? Anno Dracula shows England a few years after their failure. Most of the people who opposed Dracula are now dead or irreparably damaged. Dracula himself has since become the Prince Consort to Queen Victoria, ushering in a new world order where vampires, both newly made and already ancient, are gradually assuming the positions of power in society.
As I said above, the main reason I love this book, other than it being a wonderful premise and one that can make you take another look at the original novel, is the volume of references in it. The author is a well-respected film critic and horror aficionado and has used that knowledge to cram the story full of fictitious characters from a huge range of sources, from some of the earliest classic stories to some of the more modern cinematic incarnations. There are also numerous appearances by characters from Victorian literature as well as some historical people from that era. I won’t mention any of them in case this prompts you to read the book. If so, I hope that for you, as it is for me, the fun is in spotting these and marvelling at how deftly they are all interwoven.
Plus, how could I not love a book that has a chapter entitled “Fucking Hell!”?