Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula series continues with his latest novel – the fifth in the series, if you’re keeping count. Following on from the recent short story anthology Anno Dracula 1899 and Other Stories, One Thousand Monsters returns the series to its original, and most successful, setting – the vampire-ruled Victorian era.
Instead of another London-set adventure, however, our heroine – Geneviève Dieudonné, doctor, secret agent, vampire – travels to Tokyo as part of a group of European vampire refugees from Dracula’s England. She discovers that the city has handled the vampire problem by herding the bloodsuckers into a ghetto called Yokai Town. Lorded over by the demonic Lieutenant Majin, it’s the sort of place that makes even vampires afraid to venture out at night.
In the style of many novels of the era, One Thousand Monsters is mostly epistolary, with the narrative told from Gene’s point of view as she recounts her adventures in the form of letters to her beloved Charles Beauregard (the ace spy featured in previous novels). Via flashbacks we also learn more about her past, which offers some welcome further insight into what is already Newman’s best character. Elsewhere, Kostaki – a former acolyte of Dracula’s who has redeemed himself – acts as a co-protagonist, as he leads his own investigation into the mysteries of Yokai Town.
As with all the Anno Dracula novels, you’ll be left blown away by how deftly Newman weaves a new story derived from countless works of fiction – and, in this case, some Japanese mythology, too. Eastern vampires are hugely different to their European counterparts – the yokai are grotesque shapeshifting creatures – and Newman draws much from the culture clash between these monsters and the western vampires who look positively civilised in comparison. If you know your vampire fiction or classic Japanese cinema, you’ll also enjoy the supporting roles or namedrops for familiar characters. Our favourite has to be the inclusion of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Drusilla.
Whether you are a seasoned fan or a newcomer to Kim Newman’s vampire-themed shared universe – think The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen but everyone’s undead – we recommend this latest instalment. It’s a somewhat leaner read than earlier Anno Dracula books – and doesn’t actually feature the eponymous Prince of Darkness at all - but it still has just as much mystery, horror, humour and esoteric references as ever.
ANNO DRACULA: ONE THOUSAND MONSTERS / AUTHOR: KIM NEWMAN / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW