ANNO DRACULA 1899 AND OTHER STORIES by Kim Newman. Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

October 21, 2018 - 9:47 pm No Comments

ANNO DRACULA 1899 AND OTHER STORIES by Kim Newman. Titan Books, London, UK. £7.99 paperback. 369 pages. ISBN: 9781781165706
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

Many of the stories in this volume will show up the divide between the old guard of SF/Fantasy/horror readers and the younger generation. Kim Newman is very knowledgeable about films, particularly early ones in the horror genre. Many of his stories reference these.
This particular volume collects eighteen stories, originally published between 1988 and 2015, and the opening of his next novel. Some of these relate to the creations of other writers and are written in an accessible narrative style that reflects the Victorian era when a number of these originate. When you begin to read, make sure your sense of fun is turned up to maximum as Newman has certainly had fun creating many of the stories.
‘Famous Monsters’ is narrated by the off-spring of one of the Martians left behind after the War of the Worlds and relates his career as a film star. ‘Illimitable Dominion’ is also set against the background of the movies, in this case the company starts out making a film based on an Edgar Allan Poe story which is the start of a plague as the who industry becomes haunted by Poe references. The Poe in ‘Just Like Eddy’ is complaining that too many publishers are spelling his name wrong. ‘A Drug On The Market’ follows up the research Dr Jekyll did in creating his elixir, refining the recipe with the intention of making a mass market tonic. The problem is that the effects are addictive. There is always a question as to what happens to ‘monsters’ when they grow old. In ‘The Chill Clutch Of The Unseen’ it is an elderly invisible man who is in search of a last resting place.
Legendary characters turn up, years after they should have died. In ‘Red Jacks Wild’, the persona who was Jack the Ripper is rather miffed because, someone else is killing in a potential hunting ground (six tributes every three years is what Hecate has decreed for him to keep his youth). He is prepared to co-operate with the police to find this killer. The link between them is comics. A knowledge of the characters from various comics play important parts in ‘Übermensch!’ and ‘Coastal City’. In the former, the baby that became Superman landed in the forests of Bavaria and the superhero became a saviour in Germany. In the latter, what was New York has become the home of many superheroes and an attraction for supervillains.
‘The Snow Sculptures Of Xanadu’ and ‘Une Étrange Aventure De Richard Blaine’ delve into the world of film. The former relates to Citizen Kane and a certain Mr Welles visits Kane’s home of Xanadu to see the snow sculptures that haunt the building. The latter references Casablanca but is an earlier episode in the life of Rick Blaine who is coerced by the Germans to help hunt down legendary figures from Paris’s past. They are the soul of the city and the Nazi’s can only truly occupy the city when they have gone.
A few of the stories here are more traditional horror stories, in that film and comic references are kept to a minimum. ‘One Hit Wanda’ is the story of the only song that fans of
the Vanity Brothers want to hear so their stage set consists of playing it over and over again. In ‘The Intervention’ Keith does not admit to having any problems. This is unacceptable to everyone else so he needs to have the situation corrected. ‘Is There Anybody There?’ is a delightful story highlighting the consequences of being an internet predator. It is coincidence that Boyd lives in the same house as a deceased medium. Irene Dobson is the one who first realises that her ‘spirit guide’ is from the future and she takes advantage of Boyd’s knowledge.
Usually, when spirit worlds are in juxtaposition and crossover can occur, the perspective is from the contemporary side of the ‘veil’, but we are ‘The Pale Spirit People’ whose artefacts have disastrous consequences to the tribe that finds them.
There are two scripts within this volume. ‘Sarah Minds The Dog’ is an audio play in which the house/dog/teenager-sitter has the problem of dealing with the deceased dog, a beloved pet. While the start of it may be a kind of urban myth, it quickly descends into black humour. ‘Frankenstein On Ice’ relates the events after the Monster is unearthed and unfrozen in the Arctic wastes.
Along with Mary Shelley’s creation, other monsters are available. For those who like zombie apocalypses, ‘Amerikanski Dead At The Moscow Morgue’ will satisfy need for a short time. Blaming the plague of the West, the Amerikanski are the zombies which are rounded up, killed and taken to the morgue for examination. One of the researchers wants a live one, the director is remodelling a skull reputed to be Rasputin, and all the zombies start queueing up outside the building.
The volume ends with the opening segment of Yokai Town: Anno Dracula 1899,
Newman’s next novel involving vampires as a group of them seek refuge in Japan. It is a taster of what is to come.
Kim Newman is a skilled story teller and there is a lot to like in this volume. Recommended.

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