MONSTER: A Novel of Frankenstein by Dave Zeltserman (2012, Overlook)
Dave Zeltserman, author of the popular “Julius and Archie” mystery stories has unleashed his take on the Frankenstein genre. The entire book is told in the first person from the monster’s point-of-view. We quickly learn that Victor Frankenstein was not the innocent scientist probing the secrets of life, but a twisted necromancer trying to create a super race. This isn’t the first time someone has attempted a rewrite; Brian Aldiss did it in 1975 with Frankenstein Unbound. It’s still a tale of the modern Prometheus and consequences.
In Monster, Zeltserman grabs the reader with the first line: “First my feet were broken. Then my ankles.” The opening chapter is a gruesome description of death by torture in the early 19th century. Young Fredrich Hoffman, an apprentice pharmacist in Leipzig has been wrongfully accused of murdering his fiance. The judge sentences Hoffman to be executed by “The Wheel” a method for which “cruel and unusual” was intended.
Hoffman regains consciousness to find himself the prisoner of Victor Frankenstein. The mad doctor in this version has restored the creature by use of sorcery and science. Although he can barely move, Hoffman befriends a sentient head in a bowl named Josephine. They are barely able to communicate by lip-reading, but Hoffman is able to learn what Frankenstein has done to the both of them. Soon Frankenstein is entertaining an enthusiastic guest: The Marquise De Sade.
When Hoffman is finally able to get a look at himself, he’s shocked. Frankenstein has turned him into a huge and twisted creature nearly seven feet tall. But he has superior strength in his new body, which he puts to good use.
Hoffman is finally able to escape, but finds Frankenstein has moved on. Wondering through the countryside he undergoes a number of strange adventures on his way to make Frankenstein pay for his crimes. At one point he encounters a group of vampires. In another episode he finds a band of Satanists who mistake him for the real devil. Eventually, he locates Frankenstein in a ruined castle.
Trapped by one of the necromancer’s evil spells, Hoffman is unable to carry out his revenge against his creator. He’s forced to watch as the mad doctor and perverse count prepare for a gala ball of torture and sadism. Unable to stop his adversary, the monster known as Hoffman seethes and waits for an opportunity. To reveal more would spoil the conclusion to the novel.
Monster is a different, but no less interesting, direction for Zeltserman. I look forward to what else he does in this genre.