Thursday, September 26, 2013

Johnny Alucard

Author: Kim Newman

Published: 2013

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Kim Newman returns to one of the bestselling vampire tales of the modern era in this brand new novel in his acclaimed Anno Dracula series.

After defeating Van Helsing and rising to power in Great Britain and Germany, Count Dracula is finally dead. But with Dracula a relic of the past, the world needs a fresh monster.

In Transylvania, the vampire Kate Reed is on the set of Francis Ford Coppola’s troubled movie production of Dracula. When Kate meets a young vampire called Ion Popescu, she is compelled to help him escape and begin a new life in America, where he reinvents himself as Johnny Pop. He makes his name – and his fortune – selling a new, dangerously addictive drug that confers vampire powers on its users, and becomes a hit on the decadent New York art scene.

As he stalks the streets of Manhattan and Hollywood, haunting the lives of the rich and famous, from Sid and Nancy to Andy Warhol, Orson Welles to Francis Ford Coppola, sinking his fangs ever deeper into the zeitgeist of 1980s America, it seems the past might not be dead after all…

The review: By way of introduction (as I had read the rest of the Anno Dracula series long before I started this blog), I’ll have to explain that I loved the book Anno Dracula; mixing history and literature to create an alternate universe it ran on the premise that Dracula won and became Regent of Britain. It takes us into a world where vampires are out of the coffin, London has inverted its days so that night is the prime time of commerce and business and a serial killer haunted the streets ripping (as in Jack) vampire prostitutes.

The next two books in the series took that alternate universe further. The Bloody Red Baron recreated the First World War and then Judgement of Tears (as the US edition was called, woefully titled Dracula Cha, Cha, Cha in the UK) moved the series forwards to the 1950s. By the end of the book Dracula was dead. I really liked the second book, the third I thought weaker (though still good). Much time passed and now, at long last, we have a fourth book running between 1976 and 1991. Some of the sections of the book have been (in different edits) available as shorts but Newman is back and playing with the genre as only he can.

First of all this is a tour-de-force of vampire trivia, you’ll spend the book spotting references to other media – films, TV series and books – and that is fun in itself – mainly because there isn’t a wasted reference. Each one works . Lore wise it all depends on the bloodline of a particular vampire and generational mutation. Some vampires burn in the sun, others don’t, some shapeshift (and some become twisted grotesques) whilst others don’t – indeed one character in the book can vampirise vampires by sucking all their vital essence allowing her to shift entirely into that victim, memories and features both (to the point that, with some, they can take over her). When it comes to reflections and appearing on film some vampires don’t show up but some do and no one knows why, indeed it is becoming more and more common for newly turned vampires to show up on film. Silver is an anathema to all vampires it seems.

The new drug mentioned in the blurb – drac – is either liquid or powdered vampire blood and not only is it addictive but its users, known as dhampiers, are sometimes known to prey on vampires - reversing the hunter/prey dynamic. We discover that China is home to kyonsi in this universe.

Sharp writing, a witty story, a focus on capitalism – most powerfully shown in a scene where a vampire (like Dracula having his pocket cut and dropping monies, in Stoker's novel) "bleeds" gold coins out of a shredded suit; the resultant grab for cash becoming, for me, one of the primary images within this volume. Anno Dracula is back and is a must read for genre fans. 9 out of 10.


Vladkergan said...

I Hate you for having read it before I can :(

There's a short story that take place between Judgment of Tears and Johnny Alucard, I don'y know if you already know that : Coppola's Dracula.

A must read too !

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Sorry about that... Just so you know Coppola's Dracula (and the Warhol sequence) make up part of the novel - reworked, I think