In this riff on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , we hear the eponymous entity’s story from his own perspective. Gentle Friedrich Hoffmann is set up by Victor Frankenstein for the murder of his beloved Johanna, waking as a set of memories inside the stitched-together figure familiar from Hammer horror movies. Breaking free of the scientist’s clutches, Hoffmann escapes into the surrounding forest – meeting vampires and Devil worshippers – and catches up with his nemesis at a gothic castle, where he engages with Frankenstein’s plans to animate a sinister mural, and re-enact a set of gruesome orgies.
This is a book driven by philosophical speculation, rather than by the intricacies of plotting. Frankenstein is not a scientist here: in the original novel, Frankenstein’s animatory techniques depend on alchemy; here they rely on a Dennis Wheatley-eseque Satanism that is less interesting than the original impetus.
Zeltserman’s primary aim is to examine the nature of the monstrous. This is interesting, but not especially new: there’s little that we really gain from this revisiting of the paradoxes of appearance vs behaviour. The novel only adds to the original narrative in that we learn more about the “monster” himself; it doesn’t enhance Shelley’s work (which was, after all, subtitled A Modern Prometheus .)
Monster is an entertaining read if you like classic gothic fiction, but it doesn’t bring much that is new to an old ethical party.
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