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The Bloody Red Baron
By Kim Newman

Reviewed by Carl Cipra
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.

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