Sunday’s Quickie Book Review
The Emerald City con report is coming, I promise. But it’s become increasingly apparent that I won’t get it finished this weekend. So instead, let me just briefly mention a couple of recent arrivals that I think you should check out.
The Bloody Red Baron is the second novel in Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula series. The premise is essentially, what if Harker and Van Helsing and the others had failed to stop Count Dracula back in the 1890s? What if the vampire king had actually taken over England?
That’s the sort of parallel-world, alternate history story that always gets me. And also, hello, Dracula! So of course I was on board.
I bought Anno Dracula in hardcover years ago and enjoyed it a great deal, and I’m a big fan of Kim Newman’s stories about the Diogenes Club; but somehow, I’d never gotten around to reading the sequels to Anno Dracula. So when Tom Green at Titan Books offered to send along a review copy of the new edition of The Bloody Red Baron, I lunged at it like a bass.
These new trade editions from Titan– they’ve already done a new Anno Dracula as well, and I gather that the next one, Dracula Cha Cha Cha (or Judgement of Tears as it appeared here) is on deck for a few months from now– aren’t just reprints, they’re updated with all sorts of extra material. Bloody Red Baron comes with a bunch of annotations as well as a whole extra short novel in the back, Vampire Romance, which is roughly a quarter of the entire book. It’s a great package. I love my first edition hardcover of Anno Dracula, but now I’m seriously tempted to go find the new Titan edition just to get the extras.
The stories themselves are enormous fun, especially if you are the sort of reader that enjoys all the cameos in Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics. Kim Newman was doing that same kind of adventure in Anno Dracula back in the 1990s, only with vampires. As with Alan Moore’s League stories, you don’t NEED to know where all the players are originally from to enjoy this book, but it certainly was a value-add for me. I really don’t want to spoil all the twists and turns of the plot, other than to say that Bloody Red Baron is about Dracula’s England entering World War I, so I’ll just say that it’s good and you should check it out.
I was really sad that I wasn’t able to get over to the Beanleaf Press booth at Emerald City and say hello to Travis Hanson. We’d never met in person, but his former studio-mate Mordechai is an old friend of mine, and more importantly, Travis ran a panel last year at ECCC on small-press publishing that was chock-full of smart, good advice for fledgling artists and self-publishers. I went with my former student Amanda and I know she really took it to heart; a lot of it got incorporated into her own approach to doing ‘zines. I daresay Travis probably prevented several bankruptcies just in those forty-five minutes.
Anyway. I did buy a bunch of his comics and became a fan of his work, it’s really just a visual delight and the story is the kind of engaging high fantasy that works beautifully in comics. The tale of young Bean, a tavern dishwasher who gets swept up into an epic quest, is the kind of thing that hits me right where I live. For me it’s in the same wheelhouse with Narnia and Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain and all of those stories that got me interested in fantasy fiction in the first place.
So when Travis launched a Kickstarter campaign to get his trade collections funded, Julie and I were in for fifty.
And in the midst of the chaos of Emerald City Con, our books arrived — The Bean, volumes one and two.
I’d already seen a lot of these comics because I’d picked up individual issues the year before, but it’s much nicer to have the books. Since we were backers, we got sketches inside the cover and our names in the back, and an extra copy of volume two that I think is going to have to go to Amanda. It’s a really nice package, and very professional-looking.
But you don’t have to kick in the dollar amount we did. You can buy the books online here at Mr. Hanson’s store, in either print or digital editions, and I really recommend them. We saw a lot of people at Emerald City who were lamenting the lack of fun comics for younger readers and I always pointed them to Travis and the Beanleaf booth. I hope they found him, and I hope you do too.
And that’s all for this week. Next week– the con report that I was SUPPOSED to have up this weekend. One hopes I’ll have caught up on my sleep enough to finish it by then.