“Of course, without vampires (specifically without the brute now calling himself the Graf von Dracula) the war would not have been fought at all. The Graf’s latest attempt at European power had led him to a conflict that seemed to involve every nation on the globe. Even the Americans were in now. The Kaiser said modern Germans must embody the spirit of the ancient Hun, but it was Dracula, proud of blood kinship with Attila, who most epitomized twentieth-century barbarism.” — Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron, Kim Newman
“’He will make of this century a killing ground,’ she said, seriously, ‘In his warm days, he murdered one-third of his own subjects. Imagine what he would do to those he considers his enemies.”’ – Mata Hari, Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron
“Mycroft had preserved much of value from the past in this changed century. Without him, the Ruthvens and the Crofts crept on selfishly wasting too many lives in a pursuit of power without purpose.” – Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron, Kim Newman
Originally published in 1995, Kim Newman moves the alternate history he began, in Anno Dracula, into the 20th Century, with a gruesome and intriguing take on the last months of The War to End All Wars.
It’s the winter of 1918 and The Great War rages in France. Having been run out of England, 30 years before, Vlad Dracula is now Commander in Chief of the German forces. No one – vampire or warm – is immune to the carnage of the trenches, as the armchair generals, of both sides throw more and more lives at each other.
There are “Strange whispers” about the Jagdgeschwader Eins (AKA the Richthofen Circus), stationed at The Chateau de Malinbois. At an airstrip, in Maranique, the air squadron attached to British Intelligence has been tasked with gathering information on Germany’s premiere fighter squadron.
Meanwhile, enemy alien Edgar Poe has been tasked, by the media wing of the German war effort, with ghost writing the autobiography of The JG1’s most lethal pilot.
When German science combines with the blood of Dracula himself, World War I takes on an even grislier dimension.
As with the previous novel, the 2012 reprinting includes annotations, as well as a novella staring Genevieve, who is otherwise largely absent from this sequel to Anno Dracula. It also includes an outline for a film adaptation to the novel.
What I Liked
As with the previous novel, The Bloody Red Baron packs in a host of literary, media and historical references that are a joy to pick out. Even the subtlest of nods are fun twists (I apologize, in advance to Snoopy fans).
I loved the idea that a vampiric Edgar Allen Poe is hiding out in Europe, after his side lost the American Civil War. Little things like this just add to the fascinating universe Kim Newman has created, here. And, without giving away too much, I loved the gruesome way Baron von Richthofen and his squadron is portrayed.
I also really liked the addition of the Vampire Romance novella, which is an entertaining 20’s style murder mystery about elder vampire politics that reintroduces us to Genevieve and takes some hilarious shots at modern vampire fiction, such as Anne Rice, True Blood and Twilight.
What I Didn't Like
In general, I am not a big fan of World War I or II stories, in part, because it’s the only part of Germanic history that anyone ever focuses on (for good reason, but still). So aside from the vampire angle and some of the politics, this book really isn’t my thing.
The build up to the book’s version of the Spring Offensive culminates very abruptly and with some confusion. The idea of Dracula combining a 15th Century tactic with early 20th Century technology is an interesting concept, but the execution just doesn’t work for me. Even after a second reading, I’m still not entirely clear on what it was Dracula was trying to accomplish, in the final battle.
That said, if Kim Newman’s aim was to, in part, illustrate the pointlessness of war… I’ll give him that.
Should I Read it?
If you liked the universe Kim Newman created with the first Anno Dracula, I would recommend it. If you like war stories and/or early 20th Century history, with an alternative twist, definitely pick this up. Also some of the characters resurface in the next book of the series (which is better, I believe), so that is also a consideration.
- Plot 70%
- Writing Quality 80%
- Pacing 75%
- Emotional Connection 75%
- Nostalga 80%
- Overall Rating 75.83%