The Bloody Red Baron
Reviewed by Carl Cipra
By Kim Newman
Rating: none given
Dracula is back! In his latest novel, The Bloody Red Baron, author
Kim Newman once again takes up the story of the Count's life and times
in the alternate, vampire-filled world he introduced in Anno Dracula.
A quick reminder: Anno Dracula, the earlier novel, began with
the premise that Van Helsing hadn't been able to destroy Dracula after
all; and the Prince of Vampires eventually wed (and enslaved) the widowed
Queen Victoria. As Prince Consort, he then instituted a literal vampiric
reign of terror, populating the government and the realm with his undead
kin. By the end of the novel, the mysterious Diogenes Club had managed
to rally the anti-Dracula forces in England and to spark a rebellion against
his dark tyranny.
The Bloody Red Baron picks up the action some 20 years later.
It's 1918, and World War I is in full swing, although presently locked
in the stalemate of trench warfare in eastern France. Officially deposed
and forced to flee England, Graf von Dracula is now high in the counsels
of the Kaiser. He is, in fact, both the Kaiser's chancellor and commander-in-chief
of the armies of Germany and Austria-Hungary; and his sincerest desire
is to utterly defeat the Allies and wreak revenge upon his former British
subjects. Charles Beauregard, the human hero of Anno Dracula, has
risen high in the leadership of the Diogenes Club and is still active in
"fifth column" activities against Dracula. Beauregard has recently learned
that Dracula is hatching some great new diabolical strategy - something
involving Baron von Richthofen's famous "Flying Circus" - so he sends Edwin
Winthorp, a young intelligence officer, to the Western Front to investigate.
The plan Winthrop eventually uncovers is truly monstrous - in every sense
of the word. Can the forces of goodness foil Dracula yet again? Or will
the King of Vampires return in triumph to a defeated England at the head
of the Imperial German Army?
The Bloody Red Baron is a well-written piece of historical fiction.
Newman has captured the feel of the period quite well, with lots of anecdotal
details about the war for the skies over the Western Front and the horrors
of trench warfare and "no-man's land." The action is pretty much non-stop;
and at times the book is very exciting. Newman also brings to this book
a technique he used so well in Anno Dracula: the masterful mixture
of fictional (literary and cinematic) characters with actual historical
people. The dramatis personae of The Bloody Red Baron includes Dr. Mabuse,
Edgar Allen Poe, Rotwang, Dr. Caligari, Winston Churchill, Hermann Göring,
Captain Midnight, Franz Kafka, Herbert West (Reanimator), General "Blackjack"
Pershing, Mata Hari, Hanns Heinz Ewers, Robur (the Conqueror), Dr. Moreau,
Baron Manfred von Richthofen, and many, many more ... as well, of course,
as Dracula himself.
I'm not sure how well some of the Victorian Gothic elements which worked
so well in Anno Dracula have been translated into the context of
WWI - but this is at most a minor quibble. The Bloody Red Baron
is an enjoyable read; and I recommend it to anyone who likes vampire stories
as well as to anyone who enjoys a well- crafted "alternate history" story.