Monday, May 12, 2014

Book Report Monday: Monster by David Zeltserman

Author: Dave Zelsterman

Genre: Horror

Synopsis: Friedrich Hoffman, the so-called monster, recounts how he was falsely accused of killing his fiancee, tortured and executed for his 'crime', and awoke hideously deformed on the lab table of Victor Frankenstein. He embarks on a single-minded quest for vengeance; but at what cost to the remnants of his humanity? Intense and chillingly supernatural, Monster depicts nineteenth-century Europe in a blaze of depravity, from inside the mind of the man forever remembered as Frankenstein's creature, in an ingenious tribute to one of literature's greatest works. (from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?: A retelling where the original villain is actually the hero, sounds like the Wicked version of Frankenstein. I couldn't pass that up.

My Review: First, let me say I didn't feel that this was scary-Stephen-King-book-in-the-freezer-horror. The character of Victor Frankenstein is creepy and sadistic but the way it was presented by the narrator, in matter-of-fact manner, softened the shock of Frankenstein's actions. Perhaps it was also that Frankenstein is simply a man and as a man is repulsive but I was not frightened of him. So don't be put off by the genre alone. It was a fast read and I enjoyed the story. As something of a Frankenstein nerd myself, I could tell and appreciate that Zelsterman did his research.

When Mary Shelley was writing Frankenstein, it was common practice for men of science to acquire the corpses of condemned criminals. This was preferred over dealing with resurrectionists, men who sold corpses that were at best stolen from their graves and at worst murdered for the profit. Sometimes there would be an autopsy performed before an audience, a horrible fate which was included in the sentencing as an added punishment. It makes perfect sense for Victor Frankenstein to have acquired the brain for his creation from a criminal. It's also possible that the brain would hold on to its former memories.

The story is a plausible alternate telling of Shelley's novel, it achieves this by claiming Victor Frankenstein's account was a lie. Though there is no explanation as to why he would make up such an elaborate tale on his deathbed in the frozen arctic sea. Zeltserman's character is nothing like Mary Shelley's, which was hard for me to accept. This may have been why I wasn't scared of him, I had a hard time believing he could be real.

Despite having been a man originally, Friedrich Hoffman (the monster) struggles with the same crisis of identity as the monster in Frankenstein. Was he made to be a monster or was the darkness instilled in him after? How can one find peace when craving vengeance? Can justice be achieved without losing his humanity? Will there ever be a place for him in the world? Friedrich is ostracized for what he is though he did not ask to be resurrected any more than the nameless creation in Frankenstein asked to be brought to life.

My Recommendation: Good for curling up with on a dark, stormy night. Obviously any Frankenstein fans should check it out.

For Next Time: Ash by Malindo Lo


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