A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
I’ve always loved Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The 1818 novel is a step above it’s contemporaries—those early Gothic novels that, while sometimes wonderfully lurid, are usually tedious all the same. (Sorry Anne Radcliffe fans, but you know it’s true.) Despite it’s age and despite it’s prominence in popular culture, Shelley’s novel still has genuine moments of suspense, still has fresh ideas, and never gets lurid or tedious.
Dave Zeltserman’s Monster, a new novel that rewrites Frankenstein from the monster’s perspective, gets a mix of these Gothic elements just right. Zeltserman takes some of Shelley’s ideas and updates them—sometimes cleverly—but never with enough insistence to get tedious. At the same time he adds the sex and violence that Shelley left out, giving it the lurid quality of those lesser Gothic novels. And why not, if Victor Frankenstein is going to be a heartless villain, it only makes sense to have him hanging out with the Marquis de Sade.
The result is a fun read. The gloomy German settings have the right atmosphere. Zeltserman’s monster is a fully fleshed character—uglier, tougher, and less innocent than Shelley’s, but still sympathetic. Besides the nefarious Marquis, Zeltserman adds vampires and satanists to the mix as well, seemingly just for some added adventures. And if the end result seems a little too episodic and a little bit too seedy, I’m willing to set that aside as an homage to those earliest Gothic novels. If you’re not the squeamish sort give Monster a try. It’s certainly appropriate October reading.
Review by Matthew