The clever melding of historical and literary characters in Anno Dracula will provide the greatest delight for readers familiar with Stoker’s Dracula, the Victorian era, and the vampire traditions of nineteenth and twentieth century literature. Kim Newman draws heavily on these sources, but Anno Dracula is still enormously original in its inventive alternate ending to the original Dracula novel and in its attempt to add to the already large store of sometimes contradictory vampire lore.
Among the innovations Newman fosters are the ideas that vampires can be killed by a stake through any major organ, not only the heart; that they can see in the dark, but not through a dense London fog; that religious symbols, such as crosses, do not do them any harm, although older vampires such as Vlad Tepes still believe they do; that silver is lethal to vampires; that female vampires do not menstruate and consequently are incapable of bearing children in the “natural” way; that vampires do not feel the cold; and that some vampires can absorb a person’s memories with his or her blood. Newman even introduces a cadre of Chinese vampires into the novel, giving him a chance to explore traditional Oriental vampire lore.
Like most vampire and occult novels, Anno Dracula has a moral point to make. Humans turned into vampires do not act very differently from their unturned counterparts. The poor stay poor, the vicious stay vicious, and the good are always battling evil, at what always seems to be a slight disadvantage. At the end of the book, as London steels itself for the new, disgusting crimes of the notorious Mr. Hyde, it is clear that the passing of the vampires will not end the brutality, crime, and sin that seem such an enduring part of the human experience.