A long time ago, Kim Newman wrote Drachenfels, which was a novel with a vampire, Genevieve Dieudonne, who wasn’t a generic villain, and that did so well for him that he couldn’t give her up. She showed up in several more Games Workshop novels before ending up in Anno Dracula, Newman’s alternate history where Queen Victoria married Vkad the Impaler, and things only got stranger from there.
I avidly consumed several more of the series (The Bloody Red Baron, with a vampiric Von Richthofen, was a highlight I keep returning to) although by 2000 and Dracula Cha-Cha-Cha I was finding my enthusiasm wane. But over the last ten years, with the reissue of Anno Dracula and more new books, I’ve been captured by it again.
A Thousand Monsters describes Genevieve’s adventure in Japan. Japan has a lot of different monster stories that are quite different to what is ‘normal’ to European ideas (most obviously there’s a monster shaped like an umbrella) and Newman gleefully mashes these together, along with an origin story for Popeye The Sailorman, a recasting of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as kappa, and almost every other demented bit of Japanese horror.
There’s an enormous evil spider, there’s a demonic dragon under Tokyo causing earthquakes, a queen of ice and even a Dracula impersonator called Dorackurya. With all the cultural references and remixing, the plot almost feels secondary: the vampires are imprisoned in a ghetto of Tokyo along with the yokai (the Japanese monsters) and there’s a little bit of a detective story, a little bit of gory mystery and I suppose something about the plight of stateless people (is that stretching the metaphor too far?) but mostly it’s just a never ending stream of entertainment, as if you were trapped in a cult video store with a paranoiac finding connections between everything.
Which is to say I enjoyed it very much..