Kim Newman acknowledges Howard Waldop (among many others) in the back of this book, with the note, “I’m not worthy.” I disagree. Newman has his own take on alternate history, and there’s room enough for him, even around the legendary Waldrop. In all actuality, Anno Dracula isn’t alternate history–it’s alternate fiction, because Newman’s stepping off point from the norm isn’t in any history book, but Bram Stoker’s Dracula (in fact, on page 249 of Leonard Wolf’s annotated edition, recently updated as The Essential Dracula). To compare Newman with another author, you might say that Anno Dracula is the horror novel that Philip Jose Farmer would have written if he still did that sort of thing (instead of collaborating with that whore, Piers Anthony), for Anno Dracula also pulls in Inspector Lestrade, Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Moreau, Mycroft Holmes, among others. In fact, after awhile, I started wondering if my pulp education had missed something in that I did not recognize where the protagonist, Charles Beauregard, came from (although I did finally recognize the origin of Genevieve from the references to Camilla). There’s one page that reads as an homage to all the vampires in fiction, and any vampire trivia fan’s nightmare. But Anno Dracula is more than a mere bundle of literary in-jokes. It’s also a well-written adventure novel, in the vein (pun intended) of Tim Powers, to mention yet another author. While it is marketed as a horror novel, and has a requisite amount of gore and teeth, I felt that the noveau term “dark fantasy” fits it better, or even steampunk, to once again compare it to Powers and books like The Anubis Gates and K.W. Jeter’s Infernal Devices. I used to read Interzone fairly regularly, and Newman was quite a staple of that magazine in recent years. I was never overly impressed by his writing there, although I recognized that he had talent. Given Anno Dracula, however, I’d be willing to give Newman several other chances.
[Finished 1 May 1993]