Tag Archives: Kim Newman

Book Review: “Anno Dracula 1999 Daikaiju” by Kim Newman

Anno Dracula 1999 Daikaiju by Kim Newman

This story is the latest in a long series of stories about the alternate world of Anno Dracula, most of which I haven’t read.  Don’t worry, it’s a great yarn even without all of the context.

Richard Jeperson, the man from the Diogenes Club, accompanied by a 1,000 year old Drearcliff girl (?), attend a millennial bash in Tokyo.  The hostess is a strange lady, Vampire Countess Christina Light.  She is planning something, probably something that the Diogenes Club will want to stop.

An A List of celebrities and wannabes are assembled in Cristina’s headquarters, which is a Godzilla Robot shaped skyscraper.  Enter through the tail, the party is in the ballroom in the dragon’s mouth 100 stories up.

The hostess isn’t the only one up to something. Dracula’s younger brother is in the house, as are the weird planetary defense force, EarthGuard, another weird planetary fixit force, Wings Over the World, an old flame Syrie Van Epp,  master hacker Jun Zero, and a lot of other dangerous weirdos,

Everybody is up to something.

What’s going on?  Will the good guys win the day? Who are the good guys, anyway?

And will Tokyo survive this party?

As always, Newman gives us lots of references to pop culture of the last several centuries.  In this case, eh appropriates Japanese folk tales, Manga, and sci-fi movies, as is appropriate to the setting.  It turns out that Japan has some unique permutations and variations on vampirism and related supernatural beings.

Long time readers may be surprised to find not a single footnote.  I guess we are supposed to have our web search engine open at all times, to look up all the Japanese slang and pop references.

Good stuff, as we have grown to expect from Mr. Newman.


  1. Kim Newman, Anno Dracula 1999 Daikaiju, New York, Titan Books, 2019.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Q2 2019 roundup

This quarter marked the milestone: 2K days in a row!

This quarter also saw a dramatic drop in hits reported in the stats.  (I have states only about hits.)  The drop seems to coincide with the shutdown of Google+ on April 1.  I had been automatically posting every blog article to Google+, so maybe that was getting them more visible in Google searches. I dunno.

The Usual Suspects

This quarter saw lots of posts about the usual suspects: The Cryosphere, Solar power, as well as the usual Cryptocurrency Thursdays and Robot Wednesdays and so on.

A couple of great names for band:

Eocene Whale
Chicxulub ejecta

Books Reviewed This Quarter

Weekly book reviews continued every Sunday.  Here is a list (in no particular order).

Fiction

Gather The Fortunes by Bryan Camp
Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente
No Country For Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
European Travels for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss
The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald
Revolutionaries by Joshua Furst
Someone Who Will Love You in all Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Non Fiction

Dinosaurs Rediscovered by Michael J. Benton
Devices and Desires by Kate Hubbard
Stony The Road by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
The Rise and Fall of Alexandria by Justin Pollard and Howard Reid

 

Book Review: “Anno Dracula” by Kim Newman

Anno Dracula by Kim Newman

Originally published in 1992, this book has been followed by quite a few sequels and spin offs.  (The 2015 edition has some additional material, mostly unpublished.)

Reading this story, I realize that I’m starting to get tired of endless reworkings of Victorian and popular fiction.  The same “iconic” characters appearing again and again.  It’s kind of fun at first, but just how many different permutations of Holmes, Adler, Dracula, Moreau, etc. do we need?  Worse, it’s basically fan fic, so it’s all derivative.  (Newman’s own notes indicate that his own works are inspired not only by derived works such as movies, but also by P J Farmer and other earlier fan fic—it’s fan fic fan  fic.)

AD covers a peculiar period in alternative history when Count Dracula defeated Van Helsing and took over England.  Many of the usual suspects appear, as usual.  In fact, the main plot is about the hoariest usual suspect of all, Jack the Ripper.  Sigh.

The interesting part is the status inversion, “vampires on top”. Not only out of the shadows, vampirism is not just in power, it is trendy.  After all, the Dark Kiss is a way to freeze our age and, if it works out, hold off death for centuries.  However risky, going dark is a great temptation, and taken up by many, even more so when it is an entry to the ruling class.

I’m not a particular fan of vampire stories in general, which are generally silly and basically shrouded (caped?) anxieties about sexuality of young women.  Forgive me if I find them boring, not to mention psychologically and sociologically problematic.

In AD, Newman mashes together dozens and dozens of silly and mutually contradictory vampire stories and characters.  This doesn’t really help.  And, as if to make my point, the 2015 edition includes multiple alternative scenes which, honestly, got old before I finished reading them.  “Maybe he lived, maybe he died, maybe he almost died.”  Sigh.  It’s hard to care.

I generally like Newman’s work quite a bit (here, here, here, here).  But this is definitely not my favorite.  Worse, this story has made me rethink my appreciation of some other recent stories (here, here) , which I liked until Newman overdid it and made me realize just how much of this Victorian Fan Fic there is, and how derivative it all is.


  1. Kim Newman, Anno Dracula, London, Titan, 2015.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Book Review: “Drearcliff Grange School” by Kim Newman

 The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School (2015) by Kim Newman
The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School (2018) by Kim Newman

British boarding schools are horrible and terrifying.  British girl’s schools just as much as boys.  And, as Amy Thomsett notes, when a place has a name like “Drearcliff”, it’s likely to be accurate.  People generally want to mislead you into thinking it’s not so “drear”.

Drearcliff Grange is even more terrifying than an ordinary school, because it has a tranche of “Unusuals”, girls with unique and supernatural abilities.  It’s hard enough for any teen to figure out who you are and how you fit in.  Add in strange powers, each one unique, and you have a formula for angst to the max.

At Drearcliff, “coming out” is far, far more traumatic than mundane questions of sexual identity and preferences.  What does it mean to be human in this unusual way?  Are “unusuals” even human?

Every teenager has to make choices, and decide to be good or bad. For “unusuals” this process means looking right at the face of the evil that lurks inside each of us.  With great power comes great responsibility, and great risk.  How can a girl cope?

Drearcliff itself is not only “drear”, it is more than a little weird.  The history is obscure, and some of the faces in the class photos are the same for decades—and never age.   Drearcliff seems to be a nexus of supernatural incursions and nefarious plots.  It also seems to be a recruiting station for the Diogenes Club, and its graduates go on to prominent positions throughout the country. but especially in the police and intelligence services.

Amy Thomsett is an unusual (she can float). She also is a moth enthusiast, so her secret identity becomes the Kentish Glory, and her gang of friends is The Moth Club.  The moths include girls with a variety of strange abilities and remarkable family connections on both sides of the law.

The Moth Club is dedicated to adventuring, and specifically to setting things right and true.  And boy, do they find plenty to tackle!

This being Tim Newman’s world, we find that Drearcliff has connections to all kinds of interesting people from other stories, as well as nineteenth and twentieth century popular culture.

Good stuff.


  1. Kim Newman, The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School, New York, Titan Books, 2015.
  2. Kim Newman, The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School, London, Titan Books, 2018.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Round Up For Q1 2019

This quarter started the sixth year of daily blogging!  “It may not be good, but it sure is persistent.”

Coworking Reposts

During the quarter there were weekly posts about coworking and freelancing in the “What is Coworking? The Book” blog.  Some of these were reposted in this main blog, which has higher traffic.  Check out the blog and the book!

Whatever is Interesting

As usual, I continue to blog about whatever is interesting including dinosaurs, robots, birds, bees, and, of course cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.

On the latter front, the second annual Crypto Tulip of the Year Award was announced.  Congratulations to “The ICO“!

“Congratulations to ICO technology for setting a new standard for Tuipi-ness!”

Band Names

As usual, I occasionally suggest good names for a band.  These are taken from or adapter from actual titles and phrases in readings and articles.  This quarter ‘s bands are:

Perching Drones
Perch And Stare Mission
Due to a lack of sunlight in Scotland”
Blogging Birds Of Scotland
Huddle Pod (or how about Cuddle pod?)
Giant Hopping Tree Rats
Kangaroo Ancestors
Prehistoric kangaroos
(Pretty much anything with “kangaroo” in it!)
Tiny Pronking Robots
Computational Periscopy

Books, Books, Books

And last but not least, I continue to read and review books.  Here is the list of the 19 books covered this quarter for this quarter.

Fiction

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq
Unto Us A Son Is Given by Donna Leon
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Angels of Music by Kim Newman
The Burglar by Thomas Perry
Grim Expectations by K. W. Jeter
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
Macbeth by Jo Nesbø
No Sunscreen for the Dead by Tim Dorsey
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Infernal Devices  by K. W. Jeter
Fiendish Schemes by K. W. Jeter

Non Fiction

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
Breaking and Entering by Jeremey N. Smith
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee”by David Treuer
Brilliant Green by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllenben
Before and After Alexander by Richard A. Billows

 

Book Review: “Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles” by Kim Newman

Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles by Kim Newman

After reading Kim Newman’s Angels of Music (2016) , I need to go back to his other works to fill in yet more of the story.

Hound of the D’Urbervilles (2011) fills in some of what was going on across the channel in England before, during , and after the events recounted in Angels.  We’ve heard versions of these stories from Watson (with Doyle) and others, but Newman gives us the story from Moriarty’s side, as told by Colonel Sebastien Moran.

Moran’s version is considerably different that the other versions, and comic to the point of slapstick.  Which makes for a great read.

Moran gives us some interesting insights into the strange man known to us as the “Napoleon of Crime”.  As he puts it,  “[Professor Moriarty] had an alien range of expression, which others misinterpreted at their peril.” (p. 34)

Moran himself is unapologetic for his wickedness.  This unpublished memoir confesses to many crimes small and large, and reveals his own motives and character, for better or worse.

“But, to me, the deep-thinkers like Moriarty, Nietzsche, and Machiavelli miss and essential truth—it’s a lot of jolly good fun being an ‘evil-doer’.” (p. 164)

Of course, the much-maligned Moriarty has little truck with “that thin man” who lives over on Baker street, nor with his bumbling enabler Watson.

“Dullards would have you believe that once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth…but to a mathematical mind, the impossible is simply a theorem yet to be solved.  We must not eliminate the impossible, we must conquer it, suborn it to our purpose. Whatever remains, however dully probable, will satisfy earthbound-thinkers, while we have the profit from the hitherto inconceivable.” (p. 168)

Several of the Angels of the opera do appear in these stories as well, not least Irene Adler and Sophy Kratides, as well as some of the Vampires of Paris.  Quite a few other characters appear as well, mostly not quite as pure or intelligent as their popular reputations.

It’s all a lot of fun.

There are several more collections from Newman that will fill in more of the secret history, which I’ll get to as soon as I can.


  1. Kim Newman, Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles, London, Titan Books, 2011.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Book Review: “Angels of Music” by Kim Newman

Angels of Music by Kim Newman

Another fine entertainment from Kim Newman.

The Paris Opera is a well known nexus of paranormal activity, inhabited by a Phantom AKA the Ghost, and saturated by magic from dome to underground lake and  home to uncanny events and entities of all kinds.

In Angels of Music, Newman recounts the long career of the Opera Ghost Agency. Led by the mysterious Ghost/Phantom (Erik), trios of astonishingly talented women, his “Angels of Music”, foil nefarious supernatural activities in Paris throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

The angels include some women we’ve heard of, and others we wish we knew of, and some who are so strange and dangerous that perhaps it is well that we have never met them.

OK, this could be described as” Phantom of the Opera meets Charlies Angels”.  And that’s fair.  (Hey, if you are going to copy, copy something good!)  The fun is in just how the mash up is done, and it’s very well done indeed.

Newman is brilliantly funny and interesting to read,and deeply steeped in popular culture from the nineteenth and twentieth century.

How can we not want to read about Irene Adler (The Woman), Eliza, Gigi, Rima, and all the other amazing women, who contend with Vampyres of Paris (a gang, not in fact undead), a bat man, and even Charles Foster Kane and a whole Casino Royale filled with villains including Bret Maverick.

Great fun indeed.


  1. Kim Newman, Angels of Music, London, Titan Books, 2016.

 

Sunday Book Reviews