A few weeks ago I finished Johnny Alucard, Kim Newman’s latest installment in his unexaggeratedly superlative alt-history vampire-cornucopia series Anno Dracula.
First, a criticism (to show you that I’m unbiased): The series has certainly had a steady (though not steep) decline from the start, though that could just be a preference on my part for the Victorian era over World War I and the 50’s. With Johnny Alucard, the historical references have been replaced with events and characters from the author’s own life, which overall gives the book a sense of preemptive nostalgia.
That said, I did still enjoy playing “spot the imported characters,” of which there are many. Some of mash-ups were delightful.
On to the whole reason I’m writing this post (I hesitate to call it a review, because I’m too lazy to really review). Spoilers below:
If you’ve read Dracula Cha Cha Cha, then you know that Vlad dies in 1959. He shows up in Johnny Alucard in a brief 1944 flashback when we see him Turn the title character. After that he’s only a memory–a historical one to the world, an personal one to certain characters, like Kate and Gene, and a persistent echo in the mind of Ion Popescu. Or at least that’s how it seems at first. Ion, later Johnny Pop, then John Alucard, is guided by the “memory” of his “Father”. This is portrayed as psychological for most of the novel. He’s doing what he feels Dracula would have wanted. It’s only toward the end that we find out that Dracula’s blood in Alucard’s veins is, for lack of a more awesome word, a horcrux of sorts–a conduit by which Dracula’s “soul” (or at least his soul in 1944) is tethered to his get. Alucard, being a suitable heir to Dracula in personality, eventually is transformed into the Father by some not-quite-clear process. Is he the original Dracula? A hybrid of the two men? A new Dracula? It’s a powerful, if frustrating, ending regardless. (Frustrating if you want an ending where the good guys win and the bad guy is defeated.)
But it got me thinking, again, about a question I’ve always had about Dracula, especially in this series. Dracula was turned in 1476, and it’s fairly well-established that there are older vampires out there (Orlock, I believe). So why is Dracula the mostly undisputed King of the Cats? (I had to look this phrase up to understand why it kept popping up.) Is it just because he outed the vampire community? Even Van Helsing in the original novel calls him King of the Vampires. And Lord knows plenty of other versions portray him as the original vampire.
(Another question I’ve had is what was Dracula up to in his castle for 400 years?)
I think Johnny Alucard offers us a possible explanation to this question. What if there are two Draculas at play here. Let’s call one Vlad. He may or may not be Vlad III, but he Turned in the 1400’s somewhere in Carpathians. Let’s call the other one the Father (as Alucard calls hims). The Father is the King Vampire, and always has been. Who knows where he came from, or when. Maybe he’s the Ur-Vampire. Regardless, his blood is that potent stuff that carries more than power, feelings, and memories; it carries a link to His Essence. When the Father’s body is killed, he can move on to one of his get, which will then become the Father (in time). Who knows how many times that happened before the Father turned Vlad and then, later (between 1476 and 1885) died and passed his Mantle on to Vlad. Vlad becomes the Father and Turns Ion, who, as the book progresses, makes the same transformation.
On the surface, Johnny Alucard tells us nothing about Dracula’s origins, but I think there is a real possibility that it tells us that Dracula’s origins are not his at all. That his is a story that dates back to the very beginnings of all vampires.
What do YOU think?