Anno Dracula, Johnny Alucard – by Kim Newman
Hmm… where do I start with this one?
Firstly, this book is the third of the Anno Dracula series. I didn’t realize that at first and so thought that Johnny Alucard was the author, with Kim Newman getting writing credits (his name was shown in smaller print on the cover).
Turns out that I was wrong (gasp… shock… horror…) and the bold Kim Newman is the only writer involved in this.
Secondly, it took me a while to figure out the importance of the name, Johnny Alucard. Have any of you got it yet? No? Yes? ( you smug so-and-so… piss off…).
Alucard is Dracula spelled in reverse. And this sums up the entire book for me.
No, I don’t mean that the book is written in reverse – although it may have been less annoying if it had of been – or that I made a lot of mistakes reading it, although that does happen, occasionally… ahem… what I mean is that the book tries too hard to be clever. Ok, the book cover (not shown) and title are not the best examples of this, but they are symptomatic of the writing to be found inside.
Newman has created an alternative past in this novel, one where our understanding of the past is skewed. For example, he has Count Dracula being married to Queen Victoria, and instigating a reign of terror across England. Perhaps previous books in the series explain, or are based upon, this scenario but reading Johnny Alucard as the first taste of this blood-fest is confusing to say the least.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the suspension of reality as much as the next possibly disturbed fella. However, weaving alternative pasts is a tricky ploy to successfully pull off, and I feel that Newman has failed in this. His writing is excellent. He has great characters. His story-line is interesting. Yet he has tried to do too much with this story, and after a while I found it to be disruptive and somewhat irritating.
The plot? Dracula bites a Romanian boy (one of many, no doubt) during WW2, and after the Count’s ‘true death’ he emerges again within the boy to live in a new skin, named Johnny Alucard. It sounds a bit like a certain bloodsucker is having a mid-life crisis. Alucard moves to the US, and makes it big in Hollywood as a major movie producer. The metaphor is clear throughout, and I do agree. Movie producer = bloodsucking parasite who needs to be staked through his dead heart.
Note: I am not advocating the destruction of any Hollywood producers, if only because that would be illegal and might get me into trouble, and may negatively affect the sale of my upcoming movie script about a blogger who becomes a sex-god vampire, with a harem of vivacious nympho vamps who enjoy cooking and football (I’m hoping to be cast in the lead role).
There is a veritable feast of characters in this novel. They are well-formed and engaging characters. Yet I found there to be a lack of consistency in some of their behaviour and abilities. That annoys me. I like to know what my vampires are capable of. I like my vampires to be true to themselves. I don’t want my vampires to end up with low self-esteem and identity issues just because their creator isn’t paying attention to detail.
Apparently, Martin Sheen died on set in Transylvania whilst shooting a Francis Ford Coppola movie about the Count. Vampire blood brought him back. Dennis Hopper and Robert Duvall were in the movie also, and Marlon Brando starred as the Prince of Darkness.
Jack Nicholson is also a vampire (I can see that), as is John Lennon, Billy the Kid, Jean Claude van Dam, Edgar Alan Poe, Cliff Richard (I can see that also), Oscar Wilde and Jeremy Paxman (bit unfair, that one, but plausible). The entire family of the Shah of Iran are vamps, and Andy Warhol was a good friend of Alucard, before the artist turned to the dark side and then quickly died, as his constitution couldn’t handle it. He was a vampire… for 15 minutes…
You see what I mean? It never lets up. There are so many references to people and events that were recast as vampire related, that it soon becomes tiring. For Christ’s sake, he has the classic Eagles song, ‘Hotel California’, being written about a vamp and her victims. I like that song. This ‘too clever’ approach gets in the way of what could have been a very good tale.
Anno Dracula, Johnny Alucard, is amusing in many places. It can entertain, and perhaps you may take more enjoyment from it than I did. It is comical to think of some of those mentioned as having been bloodsuckers. I just wish there had been less attempts at such humour, and more focus upon the story. As it is, another episode is in the offing. I am not waiting with baited breath which is, if you think of it, very like a vampire, because they don’t breathe… (damn, I’m good. Kim Newman can kiss my Irish ass when it comes to writing) (only joking Kim).
So how to rate this book?
If you are in a bookshop, and the only tomes that they are selling, are by stuffy Russian authors, or are bibles, then this is the book for you. It is light and nonsensical. It will raise a smile and leave you exasperated. It will make you want to run outside and scream at a tree.
Sult Scale rating: 5.5 out of 10. Give it a go if you’ve nothing better to do.