Book Review: Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard brings back the non-sparkly vampires, including the King himself, Dracula (sort of).
Have you ever read a book that you’re not sure if you love or hate? It’s such a fine line that sometimes, it’s confusing as to whether you enjoyed a novel or not. This is how I felt about Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard by Kim Newman. It’s not that it’s a bad book – it’s just that I don’t think it’s my cup of tea.
Let’s start with the book’s story itself, which I will admit was confusing as I’m unfamiliar with the previous books in this series. Dracula is dead (really dead, supposedly) and the world is not the one that we’re familiar with, but an alternate reality where Dracula truly existed and survived his encounter with Jonathan Harker from Bram Stoker’s novel. Now, Hollywood is obsessed with the King of Darkness and is making movie after movie about it, including one vampire named Johnny Alucard.
The trick about alternate history books is that you have to give enough detail to flesh out the world. The problem with Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard, though, is that the reader is literally drowned in those details. There is so much of the alternate history that could have been edited out without taking anything away from the novel’s story. So much of it is completely unnecessary to the actual story, which gets bogged down in those details. Giving a full page to performers at a fictional concert is not only unnecessary, but also boring.
On the other hand, the base story is a compelling one. Although, Dracula is believed to be dead, he may be living on in… well, I can’t really tell you without giving you spoilers. On the one hand, some cheer for the return of the King of the Cats (I’m not sure where that title came from, but I’m guessing it’s in the previous books) and others fear what that means for vampire and human kind. Three women who were present during Dracula’s demise are especially in danger. It’s too bad that only one of them seems interesting in any sort of way (Genevieve).
At times, too, this novel feels like it’s all over the place. It tends to lose focus, but again, I think getting bogged down in its history is the culprit. There is also a lot of famous name-dropping, recreating characters we know from history (like Andy Warhol) and giving them new stories. It’s a great concept, but here, it feels just like the author is bragging about all the celebrity names he knows.
But don’t get me wrong, because I did find myself continuing to read the novel. Trudging through all the detail and muddiness, the actual plot is compelling. Of course, the end is less than climactic and has nothing to do with Dracula at all (although it might and I’m missing something from the books that came before this), but it’s still an entertaining read. I just can’t help but to think that this book should have been edited down to about half of its current size.
I’m guessing if you’re a fan of the Anno Dracula series, you’ll probably like this one. Newcomers to this universe, though, like me, are probably going to be lost and bored.
Note: I received a review copy of this book.