ANNO DRACULA: DRACULA CHA CHA CHA is a surprisingly refreshing take on a lot of familiar things. Publishers Weekly describes it as "rich and fulfilling" and I can't think of a more apt description. I picked it up as a light, shallow break for my brain while I'm working on some very heavy work projects. Instead of getting junkfood for the brain it gave me the same sense I get when I dive into a very dense brownie. Considering how flossy and weak most vampire novels are right now, this was a treat with startling bits of philosophy and real-world issues sprinkled throughout the humor and action.
This series explores what would have happened if Dracula was real, hadn't been killed, and proceeded to take over the world. Obviously, people would have fought back. Obviously, some people would have leaped at the chance to become vampires. What results is a world where vampires are 'out', just like they are in the Sookie Stackhouse novels, but with a greater range of vampire breeds and character perspectives.
What makes this book unique is the way it explores why we make the choices we do, without the angst and melodrama of the standard vamp novel. It examines how you can love and keep loving a lot of people throughout your life. It examines how love ages over the course of decades, and how difficult it is when you have to take care of your elderly lover when he's in a wheelchair and choosing to die.
One question that is subtly posed is what would happen with so many centuries living and bumping against one another. There's a lovely scene in a dance hall where the many vampires all dance according to what they had learned in their living years--the waltz, the Charleston, ancient Russian folk dances. One of the vampires wonders aloud if we would have any fresh musicians if the Greats like Bach and Mozart had survived; could people have competed? Or would their music have become seen as boring and dated?
Oh also, it incorporates familiar faces from other fictional novels. How would Agent Bond react to Dracula? How would someone from John LeCarre's novels react to a spy as ostentatious as James Bond? What would happen if Superman met the Addams family? Some names are changed, but the faces and personalities are beautifully executed and there's no doubt as to who they are in the world of Anno Drucula.