"The Bloody Red Baron" is an excellent follow-up effort to Kim Newman's "Anno Dracula." In "Baron," Newman updates his alternate universe of vampires rubbing shoulders (and more!) with warm humans by having Dracula lead the Axis powers in WWI.
Once again, Newman takes the audacious step of having the famous and powerful become vampires (Winston Churchill is a prime example, although there seems to be less of this trick than in "Anno Dracula"). But the most notorious vampire is easily Manfred von Richtoffen, the Red Baron. The ultimate hunter is cross-fed by several vampire "elders" to create the ultimate winged combatant . . . a winged vampire armed with powerful hand-machine guns. Now, not only must the Allied pilots be wary of a violent death in a fireball or a screaming nose-dive to earth, they must be wary of being plucked from their pilot-seats and eaten alive! The vision of the vampire-squadron taking off from a high tower, with strains of Wagner echoing from Dracula's Zeppelin-flagship, makes for a riveting read.
Newman brings a few characters along from "Anno Dracula," including Charles Beauregard, aging agent of the Diogenes Club, and vampiress-journalist Kate Reed, but most of the storylines follow new characters. Edwin, seeming heir apparent to Beauregard as Diogenes agent, becomes entwined with the hunt for the Red Baron after a horrifying air raid on the German fortress of Schloss Adler, and Edgar Allen Poe, turned vampire and propaganda-man for the Axis powers, struggles to come to terms with his new role in the world.
Newman combines an eye for historical detail with the talent to write riveting scenes of carnage . . . setting the scene amongst the carnage and devastation of WWI is perfect for Newman's style. This is one difficult book to put down!
Newman's tale is also one of transition. Like the warm, the vampires must also come to terms with the violent transition to the 20th century, as technology poses new threats to vampires and warm alike (a chilling scene of an Allied elder vampire first vanquishing, then being vanquished by, Axis tanks exemplifies this theme). Among the most moving scenes are the "educations" that young, romantic American troops receive on the front lines.
Not for the squeamish, "Baron" offers thrills galore, and also throws out some good condemnation for the leaders of World War I on both sides . . . an excellent, though eccentric, take on leadership and the ability of some to throw lives away for the sake of their own ambition.
To borrow a cliche, if you liked "Anno Dracula," you'll love "The Bloody Red Baron."