Excerpt: ONE THOUSAND MONSTERS by Kim Newman (Titan)

NewmanK-AD-OneThousandMonstersToday, we have an excerpt from Kim Newman‘s fifth Anno Dracula novel, One Thousand Monsters. Published by Titan Books, here’s the synopsis:

From London to Tokyo…

In 1899 Geneviève Dieudonné travels to Japan with a group of vampires exiled from Great Britain by Prince Dracula. They are allowed to settle in Yōkai Town, the district of Tokyo set aside for Japan’s own vampires, an altogether strange and less human breed than the nosferatu of Europe. Yet it is not the sanctuary they had hoped for, as a vicious murderer sets vampire against vampire, and Yōkai Town is revealed to be more a prison than a refuge. Geneviève and her undead comrades will be forced to face new enemies and the horrors hidden within the Temple of One Thousand Monsters…

Now, read on for the extract!

*

Medical Log of the S.S. Macedonia, kept by Geneviève Dieudonné (Acting Ship’s Doctor)

At anchor in Tokyo Bay, December 6, 1899

‘There are no vampires in Japan,’ said Baron Masamichi Higurashi. ‘This is the position of the Emperor.’

The emissary nodded. A bow with the effect of a sneer.

I respectfully lowered my gaze, lips tight over sharpening fangs.

The wind blew. The deck creaked. Seabirds squawked.

Christina Light, the Princess Casamassima, smiled graciously, as if Higurashi had complimented her pretty hat. Sparks in her eyes – deep in the irises, like reflections of distant stars – betrayed her annoyance. She can no more understand Japanese than read tea leaves. He might as well have barked at her like a dog.

‘What did he say?’ she asked.

Besides doctoring, I’m expected to be the Macedonia’s official translator. For the benefit of my shipmates, I rendered the Baron’s statement into English.

Kostaki’s dead face gave away nothing. Christina’s frown let everyone know she was irritated.

‘But what did he mean?’ asked the Princess.

‘There should be no vampires in Japan,’ I said, in Italian. I suspected Higurashi understood English. ‘If the Emperor states something, it’s a fact. If the Emperor happens to be wrong, it’s the duty of this official to address the situation… not to correct the Emperor, but to correct the world.’

The Princess was impatient, as well she might be. The Macedonia has carried us a long way. This is a Voyage of the Foolishly Hopeful.

‘The Emperor is wrong, by the way,’ I continued. ‘There were vampires – of a sort – in Japan when I was last here.’

Three hundred and fifty years ago, admittedly.

It’s unlikely that kyuketsuki have died out like the great auk. The Meiji reforms can’t even rid this country of unemployed samurai. I daresay ancient blood-drinkers have survived any pogroms. Should Yuki-Onna, the Woman of the Snow, lower herself to take a title, she could claim to be Vampire Empress of Asia. Which would aptly make her Queen of the Cats. Japanese shapeshifters favour cats (bakeneko) or nine-tailed foxes (kitsune) over the bats and wolves of the nosferatu bloodline. By rights, we should present cartes de visite to Yuki-Onna, not Emperor Mutsuhito. He is at best a temporary throne-warmer. She is as eternal as the white cap of Mount Fuji. It’s said her court can be reached from the earthly plane on but one night in a century, which would make securing an audience problematic if it weren’t smoke and nonsense put about to puff up her reputation.

Sunset in the Land of the Rising Sun. The sky crimson over Chiba Prefecture, to the west. Higurashi’s launch had steamed from the east shore, where the city rises and spreads.

I remember Tokyo as Edo, bustling military camp of the Tokugawa shogunate. The name changed thirty years ago when the new emperor moved from Kyoto to take Edo Castle for his palace. The young imperial capital is bent on becoming the mercantile-political-cultural centre of the Pacific. London, New York or Paris with earthquakes and bath-houses. The Japanese probably dismiss London as Tokyo with fog and vampires. Cities are cities – each thinks itself centre of the universe.

We met on the open deck of the Macedonia. Three European vampires petitioning for safe harbour and a warm Japanese making a show of parlay with creatures he deems ugly demons. If we were not vampires, he’d think us just as hideous. In Japan, we may well be despised more for big noses and round eyes than undead pallor and sharp teeth. That two women were doing the talking did our cause no favours – especially since Christina is a terrible diplomat.

The Princess sat on a little folding chair as if it were a throne. A scene arranged with her as centrepiece. Her white silk dress had pearls inset in the bodice. Her train wound tight round her legs, lest it catch the wind and unfurl like a banner of war. She posed like a mermaid on a rock, fluttering eyelashes and playing with a parasol to draw attention from her tail.

Higurashi ignored her anyway.

The emissary spoke to me out of necessity, expressing no surprise or pleasure that I knew his language. He treated Kostaki as our chieftain.

When drummed out of the Carpathian Guard, the Moldavian elder put away all decorations. In a greatcoat stripped of insignia, he seems a ghost of himself. His shako is obscenely naked without hackle and badge. He even cut off his moustaches and shaved his head. A phrenologist might say he has a fine skull. A doctor – me! – says the rest of him is too meagre, even for a vampire. His skin is almost transparent, a rice-paper wrapper for his bones. His veins are as visible as an anatomy diagram.

Kostaki kept his eyes on Higurashi, hand casually on his sword-hilt. He didn’t give up the weapon with his medals and honours. It is his own property, not the Guard’s; a Portuguese black carrack. Originally, the blade was a dull black, so as not to catch the sun and alert the enemy (should Kostaki do any daytime fighting); now, it’s silver-coated for use against vampires. The weapon has a peculiar-shaped pair of claws in the hilt, to trap an opponent’s blade so a wrist-twist can disarm in a clash. It’s politely called a crab sword, but crudely known as a colhona (‘big balls’) – in profile, the claws look like caricature testicles. It may have a name Kostaki hasn’t shared with us – Gut-cutter, Raven-brand, Skull-splicer. We might be scorned as barbarians, but the sword will be welcomed in Japan. Here, everything sharp has a coat of arms, an official birthday and secret and public names.

*

Kim Newman’s One Thousand Monsters is published by Titan Books in the UK and US.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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