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Johnny Alucard by Kim Newman

Johnny Alucard (2013)

by Kim Newman

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Like the monster whose alt-universe career the series charts, the Anno Dracula books shift in form and type and identity, reflecting the era in which they're set, cannily skipping eras and events that would potentially mimic earlier entries. A bloodsoaked epic adventure, a war story, a dark and bloody comedy, and now this assembled patchwork of narratives skipping across three decades. The last Anno Dracula novel was published in 1998, though bits and pieces of Johnny Alucard have appeared as novellas and short stories over the years, that's a long wait for a new entry. It might be a pity that it's not all wholly original material, but Newman's stuff is rereadable anyway.

The first great alt-pop coup is a version of Coppola's Dracula if it was Apocalypse Now, as experienced through the calamitous process of filming the damn thing, a shuffling revisited later when we afforded a brief glimpse of the script for Orson Welle's 'Citizen Dracula.' This sets the tone and the style and the subject for the rest of the book. Ion Popescu, Dracula's young get, flees under cover of the film from Roumania to New York and reinvents himself through ruthless and horrible innovations, before heading to LA as John Alucard where he starts making films. Films about Dracula. He is a revenant who carries the ghost of Dracula and is preparing carefully for his big comeback. Touched by his rise and rise are our vampire heroines, Kate Reed and Genevieve, and he has them marked for his attention.

The narrative, though fragmented, covers a lot of time and space, carrying a great deal of inventiveness and insight in each section or interlude. As usual, real and fictional characters walk on and off, in and out of the story, building the universe and populating the new epoch. Dracula rises, and maybe in the next installment he'll fall again. Being Dracula, he won't be down for long. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Good but not outstanding. I confess, I have been spoiled by Newman's previous books (which I read in preparation for this novel). Newman writes beautifully and the competitive nerd in me delights in piecing together his hints to catch the more obscure references. Could it be that I was not as moved because this novel spans the year I was born through my graduation from high school? That I did not catch as much because I lived these years without the benefit of historical perspective? Possibly. Regardless, Newman remains an extraordinary author who has reimagined Dracula brilliantly. ( )
  Debra_Armbruster | Dec 31, 2013 |
I have never read any of the other Anno Dracula books. I think I need to say that upfront in case some fans of the series find their way over here, read my review, and then decide to lynch me or something. To be quite honest, vampires usually aren’t my thing. But I was offered a review copy of Johnny Alucard and when I looked into the series I figured, you know, why not give it a read? The first three books seemed interesting, the premise behind Newman’s earlier world building was intriguing, and Johnny Alucard was held out as a sort of entry point for folks interested in entering the Anno Dracula series without too much difficulty.

I think that now, having read the book, I would have understood more if I had read the first three books in the series. I do not, however, think I would have enjoyed it any more because I liked it just fine knowing as little as I did about what came before. If you are interested in Johnny Alucard, though, I recommend giving the other three a read. I think you’d get a more solid experience out of it. But, if you’re impatient and just really want all the 1970s and 1980s pop culture references you can get then don’t worry about jumping right into Johnny Alucard! I did and I still enjoyed it.

One of the strengths of the story, I think, is that it doesn’t take long to really draw people in. It starts with a brief flashback, the making of our titular vampire and then goes straight into the parts that really draw in readers and film buffs. Because this is a world where vampires are real and Dracula is renown and infamous, obviously the story of Dracula is pretty much the hottest thing out there and filmmakers are all over that. The book starts strong by throwing us into the fray of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Modeled after the true story of the production of Apocalypse Now with the same cast we get a number of famous, familiar faces thrown into a world where vampires are real and they’re just another part of the Hollywood business.

This is our introduction to the world of Johnny Alucard. And it’s a fantastic introduction.

From there we move through the years, chronicling the rise to fame of one particular vampire who styles himself in the end as Johnny Alucard. I’ve always been a fan of alternative history and seeing how authors can mold familiar events to their will. Throughout the book we move through American history from the 1960s to the 1990s with all the pop culture references you could hope to find. We meet tons of characters from history – from a resurrected Andy Warhol to Orson Wells and numerous famous actors and actresses. We also see a lot of things pop up that we’ll recognize from history that are creatively altered for a world full of vampires. Like ‘Drac’ – a street drug that pops up and gains in popularity the same way that cocaine or heroine did in our world. Except, you know, it’s made of vampire blood. (Seriously, though, why is that always a thing in vampire books? Who wants to drink vampire blood? I mean, I get it as a drug but… it just seems so unsanitary.)

It’s a pretty awesome set up and example of world building.

One of the things I really kind of liked about the book was the it was split up into parts. It helped break up the story and helped with the transition through the years. It also helps to let the reader jump from the pop culture heavy parts to the more political issues that occurred back in ‘the old country.’ Some of the sections seemed a bit unnecessary or just a bit out of place. But, at the same time, they were still interesting and only served to add to building up this alternative, modern America full of vampires.

I will say, though, that there were moments where I got lost and this goes back to that belief that though it’s not necessary I wish I had read the other books in the series. Several characters that appear in the book are from earlier books and without that background I wasn’t really sure where they were coming from entirely. They were compelling characters in their own right and they explained what you needed to know but at the same time it did seem at times like maybe there was some back story it would have been nice to know.

But I think I can honesty say this is one of the books I’ve enjoyed most in the past month or so. I don’t take a lot of time to really read a lot of books. By that I mean I usually ready very quickly. There are only certain books that make me slow down to read them and this was one of them for whatever reason. I just wanted to take my time through it. I wanted to really enjoy it. It became my ‘bedtime book’ and I would read I think that should say a lot about the book and that you should consider that high praise enough to check it out!

Lastly, let’s take a moment to appreciate the cover to this book. The design is fabulous. That was really the first thing I thought when I got the book in the mail. (After my initial surprise at just how much bubble wrap they had included in the box!) Titan Books generally knows how to make a good looking book so I’m not surprised. But even as someone who isn’t really into vampire books usually I’d consider picking this one up simply based on that design. It has a very alluring draw. Plus I’m just a sucker for good looking things. I’m vain like that.

Final Thoughts:
An awesome jumping on point for anyone interested in the Anno Dracula series, Johnny Alucard manages to draw in fans new and old with a charming set of character and alluring series of situations. Where some books might fail to hit that happy medium this one succeeds brilliantly. Readers will find themselves enjoying not just the story itself but picking out all the finer little bits and pieces of pop culture history and trivia that Newman tucks into the pages like little literary Easter eggs. It’s a great read – and I say that as someone whose never read an Anno Dracula book and who doesn’t even like vampire books that much in the first place!
  samaside | Nov 2, 2013 |
Book Review & Giveaway: Multi-award winning author Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard covers the Anno Dracula period from 1976 through 1991. If you’re not familiar with this bestselling series, you’re probably scratching your head about now because everyone knows Dracula bit the dust centuries ago, right? The premise of this alternative history fantasy series is that he actually escaped Van Helsing and Dr. John Seward, and went on to gain unprecedented power in Germany and England. Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard works just fine as a stand-alone read in case you’re like me and haven’t read the prior installments.

Vampires take on the glitterati in this latest volume, taking a bite out of the Big Apple and going where fame-hungry vampires all long to go, Hollywood. It’s gory, it’s campy, it’s irreverent satire, and it completely rewrites history. What could be better for Halloween reading? And, thanks to the publisher’s generosity, you could win a copy in our giveaway at http://popcornreads.com/?p=6713. ( )
  PopcornReads | Oct 30, 2013 |
Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard is the fourth in Kim Newman's Anno Dracula alternate history series, which flows from the premise that Dracula, and vampires in general, are real. We begin in 1944, when Dracula "turns" Ion, a partisan boy in the Carpathian mountains; decades later, Francis Ford Coppola comes to the same area to film "Dracula," with his large cast including Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen. Ion joins the crew of the film and, now dubbed Johnny Pop, manages to get out of Romania with that company, making his way to New York City. There, he again reinvents himself, this time as Johnny Aculard, and he begins his rise to power by hanging out with Andy Warhol and inventing a new and very addictive drug, drac. But that is only his start, as his plan is to raise Dracula from the "true death" that he suffered in Italy in 1959, and there is very little that can get in his way or stop him.... This is a very fun (if quite gory) series of books, and in this instance the focus is really on pop culture and the world of filmmaking from the 1970s to the 1990s. Newman uses his wide knowledge of film to great effect here - Coppola's "Dracula" film, for example, is an alternative to what really happened in 1977, when he made "Apocalypse Now." Here, Newman uses the same cast and crew as really worked on that film, as well as many of the events that occurred in the filming (including Martin Sheen's heart attack), but the whole scene is displaced to a world in which vampires exist. It's not necessary to have read the previous three books in the series, although because there are many recurring characters and many references to previous events, it's probably better that you do. And it's not necessary to have a wealth of information about pop culture, although it's a richer read if you get all the sly references (and I'm sure that I didn't get them all). Newman does a good job of extrapolating what the world might be like if vampires were real, and his characters are engaging. Recommended, with the caveat that it is quite violent and scary at times. ( )
  thefirstalicat | Sep 23, 2013 |
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‘As the Count saw us, a horrible sort of snarl passed over his face, showing the eye-teeth long and pointed. But the evil smile as quickly passed into a cold stare of lion-like disdain. His expression again changed, as, with a single impulse, we all advanced on him. It was a pity that we had not some better organised plan of attack, for even at the moment I wondered what we were to do. I did not myself know whether our lethal weapons would avail us anything. Harker evidently meant to try the matter, for he had ready his great Kukri knife, and made a fierce and sudden cut at him. The blow was a powerful one; only the diabolical quickness of the Count’s leap back saved him. A second less and the trenchant blade had shorn through his heart. As it was, the point just cut the cloth of his coat, making a wide gap whence a bundle of bank-notes and a stream of gold fell out. The expression of the Count’s face was so hellish that, for a moment I feared for Harker, though I saw him throw the terrible knife aloft again for another stroke... It would be impossible to describe the expression of hate and baffled malignity -of anger and hellish rage -which came over the Count’s face. His waxen hue became greenish-yellow by the contrast of his burning eyes, and the red scar on his forehead showed on the pallid skin like a palpitating wound. The next instant, with a sinuous dive he swept under Harker’s arm, ere his blow could fall, and, grasping a handful of the money from the floor, dashed across the room, threw himself at the window. Amid the crash and glitter of falling glass, he tumbled into the flagged area below. Through the sound of shivering glass I could hear the “ting” of the gold, as some of the sovereigns fell on the flagging. ‘We ran over and saw him spring unhurt from the ground. He, rushing up the steps, crossed the flagged yard, and pushed open the stable door. There he turned and spoke to us: -‘“ You think to baffle me, you -with your pale faces all in a row, like sheep in a butcher’s. You shall be sorry yet, each one of you! You think you have left me without a place to rest; but I have more. My revenge is just begun! I spread it over centuries, and time is on my side. Your girls that you love are mine already and through them you and others yet shall be mine -my creatures, to do my bidding and to be my jackals when I want to feed. Bah!”’ Bram Stoker (attributed to Dr John Seward), Dracula
‘That Count Dracula’s no good for anybody, and he never was!’ Mario Belato (Joe Dallesandro), Blood for Dracula
For F. Paul Wilson
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Even before the War, Transylvania was the country of the dead.
So many causes and crusades and rebellions and atrocities. One man, one monster, could never have kept track of them all, could never have encompassed so much mutually exclusive argument.
There were times, like now, when Scotch was the only soldier that could complete the mission.
Passing from purple twilight to fizzing blue-white neon, her skin was white to the point of colourlessness, her lips naturally scarlet, her hair pale blonde. She might have been Racquel’s age or God’s.
This was my last case, Geneviève. I got the killer and I saved the girl. It’s been a long goodbye and it’s over. I’ve met my own killers, in bottles and soft-packs of twenty. Soon, they’ll finish me and I’ll be sleeping the big sleep. There’s not much more I can do for people.
Somewhere there’s a magic theatre, in a valley at the edge of the world, where they show movies that are only dreams. The complete Greed, the Laughton/ von Sternberg I, Claudius, Hitchcock’s Mary Rose. If that theatre was showing Orson Welles’s Dracula, I’d leave everything -the movies, the vineyard, the studio -and wander the world until I found the place.
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Kim Newman returns to one of the great bestselling 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.

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