Beasts in Crinoline

by Shim

Or, how Kim Newman sold the same story twice.
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So it's a long time since I read Anno Dracula, but these thoughts were written down for a review that never materialised, so I'm dusting them off in response to a comment on Arthur's Fists of Mediocrity post.

I bought The Bloody Red Baron after seeing the crucial words "Biggles fights Dracula", then discovered it was a sequel to this and dutifully bought it to read first. Having finished it, I'm now rethinking the whole business.

The book is very heavily weighed towards borrowing, being crammed to the gills with both real characters and fictional ones from other works. I have no particular problem with authors inserting historical or fictional characters in their works, provided it's done well. I didn't really have a problem with it here either. The premise of the book was also strong: Dracula survived Van Helsing, married Queen Victoria, and vampirism is now widespread in England. The problem was the execution. And also the executions. Thank you, thank you, I'm here all week.

Oh, a quick disclaimer: I've read a certain amount of Victorian literature, but I don't pretend to be an expert, so I may just be flat-out wrong about some of the woobly stuff I go into below. Do say.

In The Grim Darkness of the Quite Near Past


The first hurdle was that the tone of the book doesn't match my expectations. The premise has a touch of tongue-in-cheek camp about it, bolstered by the inclusion of a whole swathe of borrowed characters and historical figures, especially vampires. Sherlock Holmes is in a concentration camp for anti-vampire activists, Oscar Wilde makes an appearance, and Lord Ruthven is the Prime Minister. The cover of the book also supports this knowing approach to the book, and I read it expecting a campy, fun (if darkly so) adventure romp about detectives and vampires.

Unfortunately, Newman hasn't written that. The book actually takes a very gritty approach: vampire prostitutes offering sex or immortal undeath for a few pence, grinding poverty, an oppressive vampire aristocracy and a Britain in thrall to Dracula. There is precious little fun to be had, and lots of squalid sex, death and madness. It's grimdark, essentially. The main threads of the story are the attempt to plot against the horrific rule of Dracula over Britain, and its attendant dangers, and a bloke called Charles Beauregard joining a vampire called Genevieve to hunt down Jack the Ripper, a serial killer of prostitutes. Also they have sex.

Fundamentally, the problem for me was that this made itself out to be a vampire novel loosely based on Dracula. I expected Victoriana, drama, fine (if heavy) prose, and based on the premise and the overall look of the thing, a sort of campy, possibly steampunky approach to the story.

What Newman has actually written has very little in common with Victorian writing that I'm aware of. In fact, Anno Dracula has an uncanny resemblance to Warhammer fiction, of which he has written a fair bit. Most specifically, it is extremely similar in feel to Beasts in Velvet, which happens to be... a novel by Newman (under the pseudonym of Jack Yeovil, I believe) about a vampire called Genevieve hunting down a serial killer of prostitutes! It's a long time since I read it, but reading Anno Dracula brought it sharply back to mind.

Now there are various problems with this. For one thing, the dark, gritty tone works well in the Warhammer setting, where it fits the cynically dark nature of the world, and has a tinge of gallows humour. However, in Victorianesque London it doesn't come over in the same way, partly because it's a real place where life actually was extremely grim for many people, but also just in the sense of not quite fitting. Dickens and his ilk did a great job of portraying the grimness of that life, whereas Newman's didn't convince as a portrayal of Victorian London, let alone as a portrayal of Victorian London under the sway of fairly old-school vampires. In fact, what it came across as was a version of London transplanted to the Old World of Warhammer and left to rot under the sway of a Chaos Prince.

The constant themes of death, decay and madness that Newman paints on his world have little to do with their counterparts in Victorian melodrama, but are basically indistinguishable from the manifestations of the Chaos Powers in Warhammer. The corrupted (vampires) develop strange diseases with pustules and rot, as though they were touched by the Plaguelord Nurgle. Vampires, and sometimes others, commit wanton murder out of fun and bloodlust. There is a scene in a brothel that reads like a Warhammer or 40K description of some corrupt noble's haunt with a tinge of Slaanesh (another Chaos power, lord of hedonism). Most ridiculous of all is the description of the palace. I don't know whether Newman intended it to be funny or horrifying, but it didn't achieve either, just a lot of eye-rolling. Swap out a few names, and it could be slotted verbatim into a Warhammer novel as the lair of a Chaos Prince.

Joseph Merrick has been drafted in as a doorman, which is not really okay - I don't care if you give him a "heroic" death, Newman, the poor bloke had a hard enough life without you dragging him in as an damn extra. There are naked women being chased down by slavering vampires in the throne room! Queen Victoria is on a chain like a dog! And Dracula - the classic charismatic, articulate vampire of social power - is a hairy, blood-soaked naked monster squatting there in pointless squalor like the stereotypical couch potato. Seriously, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Writing people is hard


One of the most distasteful scenes was a raid on a brothel frequented by homosexuals; the description was much like that in a Warhammer or 40K novel where some noble's brothel or Slaaneshi pleasure room was discovered, especially a scene with a vampire noble. Partly I wasn't happy because it seemed to bring up the mistreatment of homosexuals at the time purely for the sake of an over-the-top scene of gore and squalor, rather than actually attempting to handle the issue. It was also fairly unconvincing, which reinforced the first impression.

Leaving aside whether the vampire soldiers would have acted as they do in the scene, I found it deeply unlikely that public opinion, in such a short space of time, could have been brought round to accepting the summary execution (by impaling!) of homosexuals. The development of morality by the Victorian era does not seem to me to leave room for that kind of volte-face; the adoption of the death penalty is less of a problem even than the sudden switch to autocracy. Frankly, I found it extremely unconvincing that such a level of power would have been yielded to the new vampire aristocracy in such a short time.

In fact, the way Dracula and vampirism in general is so rapidly accepted and becomes dominant is nothing short of incredible. Far more likely to my mind, from my limited knowledge of Victorian ways of thinking, would be the social rejection of this loutish foreigner and his acolytes, and quite likely a popular uprising lead by outraged moralists and theologians. There were plenty of firebrands, activists and adventurous types in those times.

I'm also not convinced that the Queen's consort would have been especially powerful, given the way society had developed by that point, and especially with him being a foreigner. Similarly, the spread of vampirism amongst the nobles was not entirely convincing, since the drawbacks seem to be fairly clear, and there are certainly moral and idealogical issues at play. In general, I got the impression that Newman had given little thought to how the religious and philosophical climate would have affected things.

This is one of those weird psychological reader things. I tend to find that I can accept all kinds of strange premises - premises are rarely the problem. Dragons, robots, space-time distortions, fine. But having normal people behave in a way that doesn't quite convince me can really throw me out of a novel.

At times, I also found Newman's characterisation questionable, which is a risk when you borrow existing characters from literature. There is a scene where a protagonist ends up in a den of master criminals, about half of whom are vampires. Amongst their number is Raffles. Now, it's entirely possible that Newman's view of Raffles doesn't match mine. The Raffles of the books certainly didn't seem the sort to join a conspiracy; he is a lone operator who steals to keep himself going, choosing wealthy victims, and there's a sense that he's getting back at a society that failed him. He has only one friend and confidant, and a very sportsmanlike view of life and crime, cynical though he can be. He's sufficiently tied in to society and common ideas that he volunteers in the Boer War, where he dies. There is nothing in that character that allows me to accept he might join a conspiracy of master criminals, let alone to take the selfish and distasteful step of becoming a vampire. He seems far more likely to turn them in or struggle against them in the shadows.

Genevieve


I think the most annoying problem for me, though, was Genevieve. As I said, she's lifted whole from his Warhammer novels and dumped in the middle of this plot. Well, that's pretty bare-faced of Newman but I can take it, it's a vampire novel, and maybe it's intended as a nod and a wink to his fans. The trouble is, Genevieve isn't just some character, she's one of the protagonists. Could he really not be bothered to think up a new one? He's so lazy that he just transplants an existing character suitable for a vampire-themed detective novel? In the process he misses the opportunity to develop a new character, and I suspect the presence of Genevieve is one of the reasons for the Warhammeralike nature of the book.

You know how I said this book reads a lot like a reskin of Beasts in Velvet? Guess who the protagonist of Beasts in Velvet is. Go on.

More importantly, Genevieve is a COLOSSAL Mary Sue-slash-wank-fantasy. She is considered generally awesome, beautiful, strong, brave and all that. Everyone wants to have sex with her, and the male protagonist generally does, even though she never seems to be very into it. Newman even bends the rules of his own universe to accommodate her. In the book, as I said, vampires are associated with several afflictions: a sort of madness, an oddly animalistic appearance, and a mysterious disease. But Newman can't bear to let his precious Genevieve have any of the traits he's painstakingly associated with vampires in this reality. Instead, he brings in "bloodlines".

Dracula has a nasty, corrupt Eastern European bloodline with all those problems, whereas Genevieve has a nice, clean bloodline from a French vampire that has no problems of any kind whatsoever, and indeed very few disadvantages. Just to make this clear, there are precisely two vampires in the story that are not Draculine. One is a Chinese "hopping vampire", which I thought might turn out to be an interesting opportunity to bring in another culture's tradition, but actually turns out to be another spin on the hackneyed "mysterious and all-powerful Oriental assassin!" trope with no characterisation whatsoever, who is a pawn of Fu Manchu (equally dubious). The other is Genevieve.

It's all just a little bit unfortunate. For readers outside the UK, I should maybe highlight that prejudice against Eastern Europeans is a non-trivial issue here. It's like writing a story where black vampires come from an accursed bloodline and are ugly and hideous, but there's one beautiful white French vampire who is canonically better in every conceivable way.

As far as I'm aware, there isn't even a folklorific basis for French vampires, so where Genevieve's French ancestor came from is a bit suspect too.

Overall verdict


It is not a terrible book. I have read much worse books. There are some very nice bits of writing and description. The madness is quite well done, and the climatic scene in the palace has a good and unexpected ending, which I won't spoil. However, there were enough flaws in it to break my suspension of disbelief, and once that happened I started picking all kinds of holes in the setting and writing.

That being said, I did read it pretty much at one sitting and never considered not finishing it. So obviously he hasn't done too badly at the pacing and plot.

He also just doesn't seem to know how far to commit to this Victorian thing. He throws in a bit of set dressing, but his approach to how plot, mood and behaviour should unfold is strictly Warhams. He clearly feels the need to include Sherlock Holmes to prove that it's a proper Victoriana story, but has nothing at all to do with him: in fact he admits, in a very substantial commentary section at the end, that the concentration camp idea was to explain why Holmes can't be called in to solve the central mystery. Presumably we have now reached a point where having a faux-Victorian story where Sherlock Holmes remained fictional is just unthinkable.

The most striking thing to my mind, though, is just how very much this book feels like a straight port of Beasts in Velvet, with a few serial numbers filed off and a few proper nouns changed. I really cannot get over it. And how little, how very little, it feels like Dracula.

I will not be reading The Bloody Red Baron, because I don't have a huge amount of interest in seeing how Newman writes Warhammer novels featuring Genevieve killing German Chaos vampires in biplanes with occasional cameos from Biggles et al.

For alternative views, I recommend Arthur's post on the Genevieve series and Alasdair's entirely opposing opinions.
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Comments (go to latest)
Arthur B at 17:19 on 2015-10-03
I am going to very slightly spoil the fun (but only slightly) by pointing out that Beasts In Velvet came out after Anno Dracula.

That said:
- This was after a big interruption in the publication of Warhams novels, after Games Workshop wrapped up their book section and before they made a deal with Boxtree to publish Warhams fiction. So I could 100% believe that Newman wrote Beasts first, then rewrote it as Anno Dracula when it looked like the Warhams book line might be going away, only for Beasts In Velvet to come out later via Boxtree.

- Even if that isn't the case, Genevieve was introduced in Drachenfels, which most assuredly did precede Anno Dracula. And the fact that Anno Dracula felt more to you like a Warhams novel than a piece of Victoriana is a problem whatever order the novels were written in.

Incidentally, if I remember right in her Warhams incarnation Genevieve's sire came from Bretonnia - AKA Warhams France - whereas most vampires dwell in the realms of the Vampire Counts (AKA Warhams Transylvania). I don't remember the Vampire Counts as being subject to much of the physical warping you describe here, mind, but then again that's more of a Chaos thing and the Vampire Counts aren't actually products of Chaos in Warhams.

I also roll my eyes at the whole Holmes thing because seriously, why declare the character to be real in this continuity in the first place if his existence creates problems for you? Just have someone make a passing comment about how it's a shame that Mr Conan-Doyle's famous detective isn't real and move the fuck on.
Arthur B at 17:22 on 2015-10-03
Ignore me, I'm talking nonsense - the Boxtree reprint of Beasts may have come out in 1994 but as far as I can tell the first edition of Beasts emerged in 1991, a year before Anno Dracula, and Newman's official site specifically states that he wrote Beasts for the first incarnation of GW Books.
Arthur B at 17:26 on 2015-10-03
(Anyone who wants to double-check can look up the timeline here.)
Craverguy at 17:40 on 2015-10-03
I don't see why transplanting a character from his Warhams books to be one of his protagonists in this is so objectionable. Every other vampire in the book is borrowed from another work, so why not her?

I also roll my eyes at the whole Holmes thing because seriously, why declare the character to be real in this continuity in the first place if his existence creates problems for you? Just have someone make a passing comment about how it's a shame that Mr Conan-Doyle's famous detective isn't real and move the fuck on.

One of the other protagonists is a member of the Diogenes Club and Mycroft Holmes is the puppetmaster who exploits the Ripper killings to stir up resistance to Dracula's rule. Moriarty also makes an appearance in that scene with Raffles. Having used them, Newman couldn't just have left Sheelock's absence dangling without explanation, so handwave it is.
Craverguy at 18:10 on 2015-10-03
Seriously, though, I think the thing with Genevieve is that he really liked the character, Warhams didn't want anymore stories with her, he retained the rights, and here was a new story with vampires already in it, so, you know, why bother creating a transparent stand-in for the character he really wanted to use all along?
Arthur B at 18:46 on 2015-10-03
Except Warhams did want more - they put out Genevieve Undead in 1993, and one of the first things Black Library did when they were set up was put out Silver Nails and commission a new story from Newman for them.

Moreover, I think what Shim isn't complaining about here isn't simply the transplanting of Genevieve from Warhams to Victorian London so much as a) the plot of Beasts In Velvet also got transplanted and b) the destination doesn't feel that different from the starting point.
Arthur B at 18:52 on 2015-10-03
(Also, dropping in Genevieve kind of comes across as Newman elevating his own fictional creations to the status of Holmes, Raffles, Dracula or whoever, which strikes me as being deeply hubristic. Plus the key difference between Genevieve and all the other borrowed characters, aside from her being invented by Newman, is that she isn't even from a Victorian setting in the first place.)
Shim at 19:06 on 2015-10-03
I should say that I see my review very much as a case of describing my emotional reaction to the work, and then trying to work out why. I read this, and was thrown starkly and vividly back to reading Beasts many years ago.

as far as I can tell the first edition of Beasts emerged in 1991, a year before Anno Dracula

You know, it never occurred to me to look at dates. I read Beasts as a teenager, and Anno Dracula a year or so ago, and I vaguely assumed the latter was actually new because it was a new publication.

As you say, I'm not sure to what extend the details really matter. I don't think there was any particular intention on Newman's part to rehash things, but presumably he was working on these books at around the same time, and they influenced each other. They're both about serial killers in a sinister and brutal historial urban environment featuring supernatural stuff. I can see how that would happen, although maybe he should have aimed to make them more distinct in that case. Or maybe he genuinely was writing one and felt "ZOMG, this gives me a great idea for another book". And the tie-in fiction versus original fiction thing does complicate things, because a lot of the audience for Anno might never consider touching a Warhams book.

Having done a bit of poking around, I think actual comparison would find the two books aren't all that similar in the details. As I say, it's a long time since I read Beasts. But all that being said, it's a Victorian vampire novel that felt to me like a Warhams book with a similar plot by the same author. I thought I should highlight that.

I don't see why transplanting a character from his Warhams books to be one of his protagonists in this is so objectionable. Every other vampire in the book is borrowed from another work, so why not her?

Good question! I would say, again from an emotional standpoint, the following:
* you run a serious danger of Moorcocking. I can't remember now whether Genevieve in Anno is entirely self-contained, but I bet it helps substantially if you've read the other books.
* transplanting your own existing characters into fiction based heavily on borrowing from literary masterworks looks a little hubristic, y'know?
* all of the other characters are Victorian characters, borrowed from works with a heavy emphasis on Victorian society and its underbelly. Genevieve is a sexy teenaged vampire sorceress warrior borrowed from a wacky and violent pseudomediaeval fantasy universe where the guilds and nobles of the Empire squabble constantly and murderously for power, ratmen emerge from the sewers, orcs threaten the borders, and at any moment some nutso band of Chaos cultists might summon sex demons or mutating monstrosities to run riot across the city. She doesn't entirely fit in.
* it feels really odd to me because she's big in Warhams. The "but she's that character from X" thing is strong. It's like actors trying to move on from a long-running TV role. I could write a YA novel where the local park ranger was Aragorn, and that would feel weird too.
* because borrowing a load of characters from someone else, only to insert your own protagonist who is stronger and more beautiful and intelligent and hot and doesn't succumb to nasty degenerative conditions because of a special exemption that applies only to her for handwavy reasons is practically the definition of a Mary Sue.

I think the thing with Genevieve is that he really liked the character, Warhams didn't want anymore stories with her...

This is a pretty persuasive argument, and I don't have a particular objection to the principle, much as I didn't really like it here. I do think there's always going to be an issue with a character written for a particular setting being hard to build into a new setting, and that shows up clearly here. Conversely, a character who isn't hard to slot in is probably a bit thin in the first place.

Sadly, since Arthur's pointed out they were written a year apart and she appeared in some more Warhams stories after Beasts so it may not hold factual water. There's nothing wrong with it, though. I don't think Newman has done anything wrong here, I just don't like what he has done.
Shim at 19:09 on 2015-10-03
Arthur's posts weren't there when I started writing!
Craverguy at 19:40 on 2015-10-03
I had never read the Warhams novels with Genevieve in them the first time I read Anno Dracula -- never even heard of them, in fact -- and I don't think that hobbled me at all in grappling with her character. She's basically an alternate version of Genevieve who comes from medieval France, rather than anything resembling the Empire, and the discussion of her backstory reflects that. But I guess if I did know her (or of her) from some other franchise, that would definitely have changed my impression of her.

But I have to say I didn't see the bit with Genevieve not degenerating and not having shapeshifting powers as particularly handwavy, since it basically comes down to the whole "different bloodlines of vampires have different abilities and weaknesses" thing that White Wolf did. Genevieve and Dracula aren't in the same "clan," so they have different powers.
Shim at 19:51 on 2015-10-03
I think there's a lot of previous experience stuff going on here, by the sound of it. I'd read some of the Genevieve books, one of them vaguely similar in premise and very similar in tone, so that coloured my perception of the book. Also, given how much Warhams I have read overall, that particular tone just screams "Warhams" to me.

Bloodlines are maybe a similar thing. I had nothing to do with White Wolf until oh, last year sometime, by which point my ideas about vampires were well established. I mean, I knew about the concept a while before that, I just didn't care. It doesn't feel like a vampire thing so much as a White Wolf vampire thing.

But there's also the fact that as far as I can remember, Newman does nothing significant with this plot point. White Wolf's setting has an underlying assumption that bloodline differences will be constantly relevant and a storyline featuring only one bloodline would be rare. In contrast, Newman has hundreds of vampires of one bloodline, which means when the bloodlines idea is introduced to explain why Genevieve isn't non-hot, it feels to me like handwaving without any substance behind it. Or lampshading, if you like.

Out of interest, can anyone tell me what the special powers of the two bloodlines actually are?
Craverguy at 20:05 on 2015-10-03
It's been a while since I read the book, but as I recall, Dracula's bloodline has shapeshifting powers which cause the degeneration in anyone who isn't Dracula (because it turns out that reshaping your body is a stupid idea if you're not able to put yourself back together the right way and few people are), whereas Genevieve has psychic powers of some variety.

There's also Lord Ruthven and his minion Holmwood, who don't seem to have any particular powers or special weaknesses, and are just generic vampires.

And then there's the Chinese vampire assassin that Newman took from the Mr. Vampire franchise, who, being based on a totally different strain of folklore, is just plain weird.
Arthur B at 20:48 on 2015-10-03
We're all agreed that regardless of how well-established the whole bloodline thing is in Newman's worldbuilding, the fact that it boils down to "Western European vampires are pretty, Eastern Europeans are all either uggos or Dracula" is a huge motherfucking problem, yes?
I read Anno Dracula several years ago and enjoyed it (although I didn't even remember that Genevieve was in the book). The thing it most resembled to me was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, another mash-up of pop Victorian plots and characters. I preferred Anno Dracula, just because the story seemed to have something actually at stake while Loeg seemed by comparison like a fairly tiresome exercise in Victorian trainspotting.
Craverguy at 21:35 on 2015-10-03
Eastern European vampires have traditionally been portrayed as horrible monsters. The original folkloric vampires are actually closer to zombies than what we recognize as modern vampires. The concept of the vampire as pretty, or even not ugly, dates back no further than Polidori and Ruthven, who is relentlessly Western, being a Scottish peer based on Byron and all.

Moreover, the vampires who are portrayed as monsters are all members of Dracula's inner circle of cronies from the old days, so not only are they from a region that traditionally produces legends about monstrous vampires but it's implied that they are all closely related to him as well. Meaning that their deformity has less to do with their ethnicity than with their close association with Dracula, who is essentially portrayed as this bottomless well of corruption that infects everything in his orbit. The farther you get from Dracula, the less prevalent the monstrousness becomes (the only two vampires in the novel outside of Dracula's clique who demonstrate it are a little girl who overreaches with her shiny new shapeshifting ability and a prostitute who deliberately invokes it to cater to clients with fetishes).

Which I guess is all a long way of saying no, in the context of the story, I don't think it's a problem.
Arthur B at 21:42 on 2015-10-03
The thing it most resembled to me was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, another mash-up of pop Victorian plots and characters. I preferred Anno Dracula, just because the story seemed to have something actually at stake while Loeg seemed by comparison like a fairly tiresome exercise in Victorian trainspotting.

To be honest that's probably why I'm sniffy about it - that, and the whole Wold Newton universe thing (don't google it, it's a black hole) and similar affairs all strike me as being just as boringly stultifying as the whole DC Universe/Marvel universe sort of thing. Crossovers by and large suck with a very few exceptions; characters developed for particular stories don't do well when transplanted out of those stories, and are even more annoying when transplanted to entirely different genres.

I realise that I'm being a full-on and relentless curmudgeon on this subject but I don't care. Crossover mashup fiction is lazy and awful, and gets even more lazy and awful the more references you crowbar into it. Take it away from me.
Craverguy at 21:45 on 2015-10-03
And send it over here. I love that stuff.
Shim at 16:54 on 2015-10-04
I don't really mind mashups as a concept, but I suppose I feel like they rarely add anything unless they're pure campy fun. Even then, there's a danger either that most readers will recognise only a proportion of the characters (which happened to me recently) or that you assume you can forgo the characterisation and indeed plot.

Or, as films demonstrate, that your story will consist mostly of the protagonists beating each other to a pulp to show off their awesome, while the main storyline is crammed into the last half hour.

In all fairness, I don't think this is one of those stories. I had a couple of specific objections here, but in some ways I think it does make sense (if you're doing a Dracula sequel anyway) to let, say, Ruthven have a minor part, especially as most readers (including me) aren't going to know anything but the name. And including historical figures as cameos is a proud tradition. There were too many name-drops, but the characters who actually appeared were handled okay as I recall.

Maybe it's the offhandedness of most mashups? I feel like a story written around the interactions of two or three characters is more likely to feel worthwhile, whereas once they're just popping up everywhere it's pretty much namedropping. It really won't add anything to a story if the pilot on your charter plane is James Bigglesworth and he never appears again.

I confess also that I liked the LOEG film, although I wasn't that impressed by the comics when I looked through them. Although the film does raise the fridge question:
if you're an evil mastermind, why does creating a legion of immortal invisible shapeshifting supersoldiers, every one of them vastly more powerful than you, seem like a good idea?


Dracula, who is essentially portrayed as this bottomless well of corruption that infects everything in his orbit

Okay, I can see where you're coming from with this. And I can sort of see it even in the context of the original Dracula because he is in some ways a well of corruption.

I suppose to my mind, the shape of the corruption in Anno still felt more like a generic demon prince. From my vague memories, Dracula's corruption mostly manifested in making Lucy unconventional and horny? And Dracula himself seemed relatively modern in his sensibilities. So the portrayal as a hulking, warlike, unwashed brute in a filthy court of foulness didn't really work for me.
Craverguy at 18:05 on 2015-10-04
I think Dracula's appearance in this novel is Newman attempting to play on his mutable appearance in Stoker's novel. In the original, Dracula starts out as basically being an aged version of Vlad Tepes, and he gets younger and stronger (and hairier) as the story goes on, he drinks more blood, and his power grows. In this novel, Newman seems to be trying to show his conception of what happens when Dracula not only continues this trend but starts essentially gorging himself on all the blood he can eat, hence his appearance when he's finally confronted.

Similarly, he has a very medieval outlook in keeping with being a guy who came up in the 15th century, which is why he runs his government like a mashup of feudalism and proto-fascism, with secret policemen and impaling.

Basically, Newman's idea of his Dracula is that he's a mashup of the Stoker character and the historical figure in terms of both personality and appearance, and I think that clashed with your idea of who and what Dracula is. Which is fair enough, since it's all a matter of taste.

To wit:

I confess also that I liked the LOEG film, although I wasn't that impressed by the comics when I looked through them.

I take the exact opposite view: I love the comic (the first couple volumes I read, anyway), but I thought the film was complete and utter tripe.
Shim at 18:07 on 2015-10-05
Well, I had a good idea what the film would be like (pulpy nonsense) and chose to go on that basis, so it was a let-down for me when the comics seemed to be a bit more serious and also rapey. Whereas I'm guessing you were hoping for a loyal adaptation of the comics for their literary merit,* and the film had none?

*as is well established elsewhere, this is basically wasted on me

In the original, Dracula starts out as basically being an aged version of Vlad Tepes, and he gets younger and stronger

It is a *long* time since I read it - I remember him slowly turning from a white-haired elder into a fit, healthy young man with a full head of black hair. I think my mental model has him still being an aristocrat, but I accept that I may be 100% factually wrong about that and maybe he turns into Arnie in the book.
Craverguy at 21:00 on 2015-10-05
I hadn't read the comic when I saw the movie. I just thought it was a bad movie on its own merits: incompetently written, blandly acted, and with laughable special effects.
Shim at 16:43 on 2015-10-06
I think the take-home lesson here is probably that you should use my articles as a handy guide to what you won't think :)
Ichneumon at 02:11 on 2015-12-20
I've read a number of Newman's short stories but never really bothered with his novels because, to put it bluntly, his schtick works best in small doses. Granted, not all of his fiction is in this vein, but to me, the archetypal Kim Newman story is something like "Soho Golem": A slightly daft, self-aware romp with a somewhat pulpy sensibility and some reasonably striking horror elements. Now, this sort of thing can work at length, but it's tricky, and much as I enjoy the man in small doses, three hundred pages is more than enough to test my patience, and in the absence of the sly humour on display in his shorter work, I can see something like this being a slog.
Arthur B at 03:04 on 2015-12-20
Yeah, I have to say that the mashup of pulp, horror, and comedy of a kind of tiresome self-aware variety where it spends so much time winking at the audience about the stuff it's referencing that it forgets that it actually needs to bring something to the table itself tends to put me off most of Newman's stuff. I don't think I've ever read any of his fiction I've actually genuinely liked except Drachenfels.
Robinson L at 15:30 on 2016-03-31
Shim: From my vague memories, Dracula's corruption mostly manifested in making Lucy unconventional and horny?

I listened to the original Dracula on audiobook about a year ago, and maybe I'm just oblivious to subtext, but I didn't notice him making Lucy horny, or all that unconventional – just progressively sicker from blood loss and then finally
dead
.

Personally, I think I'm a bit more open to crossovers and genre mashing-ups than Arthur. I crossovers can be cool, if only to see how very distinct and entertaining characters play off of each other, and how this provides me the opportunity to see these characters from new angles. (All provided, of course, that the bulk of their interaction doesn't consist of pummeling each other for highly contrived reasons, *cough*Marvel*cough*.)
Shim at 07:04 on 2016-04-01
maybe I'm just oblivious to subtext

It's far more likely that I'm getting Dracula mixed up with the much more accessible Dracula: Dead and Loving It... and possibly some other more modern vampire interpretations.

I think there was some idea that vampires were a metaphor for female sexuality and stuff, and various people decided to make that not-metaphorical? But I'm very much scrabbling around here, best to ignore me.

In any case it would seem to put the kibosh on that point. In which case I'm not really sure what Dracula's corruption looked like, unless just draining the youth and vitality from innocents around him.

Personally, I think I'm a bit more open to crossovers and genre mashing-ups than Arthur.

I, also. They're easily overdone, but I'm generally at least intrigued. That being said, the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies film is being heavily advertised at the moment, and... well, here's how that would go.

A zombie plague erupts near Netherfield.

Wickham promptly leaps into action, removing himself immediately to the furthest possible point from the plague.

Being completely unequipped with any skills that would be remotely useful in a protracted siege against mindless flesh-devouring hordes, nor the requisite physical fitness, the entire gentle-born population of the district is rapidly devoured, since it turns out zombies are not vulnerable to sharp retorts, and in an era of single-shot powder weapons there's a very low ceiling on viable badassery.

The soldiers make a token attempt to save the most socially important of the population, before being recalled to London to look after the interests of wealthier and therefore better folks. They are eaten during the journey.

Assorted unnamed labourers and peasants survive the plague due to greater physical fortitude, skills that are actually useful, and tolerance for grimness. They loot the remains of Netherfield for supplies, and establish a new warlord-based economy which strongly resembles the original, but with fewer waltzes.
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