Dracula Comes to New York: Kim Newman returns to one of the great, best-selling vampire tales of the modern era. Considered alongside I Am Legend and Interview with the Vampire as one of the stand-out vampire stories of the last century, this brand-new novel is the first in over a decade from the remarkable and influential Anno Dracula series.
Newman’s dark and impish tale begins with a single question: What if Dracula had survived his encounters with Bram Stoker’s Dr. John Seward and enslaved Victorian England? Fallen from grace and driven from the British Empire in previous instalments, Dracula seems long gone. A relic of the past. Yet, when vampire boy Johnny Alucard descends upon America, stalking the streets of New York and Hollywood, haunting the lives of the rich and famous, from Sid and Nancy to Andy Warhol, Orson Welles, and Francis Ford Coppola, sinking his fangs ever deeper into the zeitgeist of 1980s America, it seems the past might not be dead after all.
©2013 Kim Newman (P)2013 Audible Ltd
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
Just for the record, Audible has these mislabeled. This is actualy book 4. Book 3 is Dracula Cha Cha Cha. I tried to tell them, so maybe they've corrected this by the time you do a series search. Now the review...
Admittedly, I'm biased. This series, in my humble opinion, is one of the best reads I've ever laid eyes - or ears - upon. Looking back, I probably should have given more in-depth reviews of the other 3. After the wait and the self-perpetuating hype, I started out a bit disappointed with this one, mostly because it seemed so very different after the first 3. At first I chalked it up to the years between the stories. But then I realized the genius behind what Kim Newman was pulling, and the further it went, the better it got. Let me explain
The first 3 books are part of the alternate history known as the Wold Newton Universe, which is pretty much the mother of all crossover universes. Or to be more accurate, it's its own parallel version of that universe. Look it up - you'll either be amazed or overrun. I'd offer you a link, but Audible apparently frowns on that here (I tried!), so you'll have to rely on your Google Fu.
What Newman did with this one is interconnect a series of novellas (some from previous ideas he's put forth) and inject the whole thing with a large dose of metafiction. In the hands of anyone else, the stories contained herein would come across as cheesy and weak. Being of both the literary and movie worlds, this is basically like playing in Newman's backyard, and the level of verisimilitude he gives to this absolutely sells it. He proves yet again that he is a master of his craft.
But what makes it different than the other 3? Well... spoiler alert, Dracula was killed in book 3. Or was he? Newman knows as well or better than any of us that Dracula will live on forever in pop culture, and as a result there are different versions of him that don't line up with the classic story or with history. Enter Johnny Alucard. Building on concepts from the previous novels, Alucard is basically the Son of Dracula, but so much more than a cheap knock-off. This one has that certain something that made the original who he was - the drive, the hunger. Has Dracula truly been reborn through his progeny? But this one is an American, making him something far different than the Master might have expected. And from here, we're treated to subtle nods to different aspects of the character throughout pop culture, up to and including the Count from Sesame Street and several other off-the-wall incarnations most wouldn't even think about at one time. As I say, it would be wrong in the hands of anyone but Newman. Newman is just that awesome.
Along for the ride are Genevieve and Kate, who've been around since book 1 (and are found in different incarnations is Newman's other books). These two are two of my favorite characters now, and they are the real stars. It's through their eyes that we see not only pop culture unfold, but also get an understanding of the weight of what's transpiring. Their history and their personalities serve as ever-present connections to the past stories and keep us wanting more. To see how these immortals evolve, and how the alternate timeline evolves around them... it's just something you have to experience because Newman spins it in a way you won't find anywhere else. As I say, I'm biased.
For those not familiar with Wold Newton or not heavily immersed into yesteryear pop culture (and I do mean immersed), you will find a lot to enjoy about these books. For those who eat, drink, and sleep this stuff the way Newman does, you'll get a LOT more out of it. It's a pop culture scavenger hunt with more references than The Simpsons and Family Guy combined, and crafted in a way that it's not beating you over the head with it. Everything fits without being forced.
William Gaminara returns to narrate the series, and it's great to have him. He doesn't perhaps have the greatest voices for the leading ladies, but his strength of storytelling prowess makes you quickly forget that as Newman's tale comes to life. And he does a spot-on Orson Welles. That's hard to do properly.
All in all, a most welcome return by both Newman and Gaminara. It's great to have them back, it's great to have Gene Dee and Kate back, and it's a treat to have more stories in this universe. This volume is considerably goofier than the 3 previous versions, but it's hard not to love the geek-fest in these pages. Looking forward to seeing where it goes from here!
"Fun, but goes on a bit"
I've enjoyed the previous books in this series and did rather enjoy some of the skewed takes Newman has on late 20th Century pop-culture. Overall, however, I felt distracted by the shear volume of reference catching to the point of being distracted from the actual plot. I think the appendices in particular tend to exacerbate this and I would recommend that anyone who in't really into Andy Warhol and the career of Orson Wells not bother with these parts.
All of which said, the story of Johnny Pop and his mission to resurrect Dracula is nicely told and at times the alt reality of this world is quite vivid and convincing. Gaminara's delivery has also improved over the previous books, where he used to often get confused about who was speaking and read in the wrong voice. Overall probably a 3.5 out of 5.
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