A new anthology bringing together five great new and established writers to explore the world of Mary Shelley’s all-time classic, Frankenstein
“My spirit will sleep in peace; or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell.”
Victor Frankenstein was the first to unlock the key to life, but he would not be the last. Through two centuries of scientific enquiry and relentless advancement, five more minds found the secret, and five more creatures were made. Five more stories ended in tragedy.
From the 1840s to the modern day, from the race to publish the first anatomy to the desperate search for weapons to win the Second World War, telling the stories of the creatures that never were.
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 3.54 out of 5
16th October 2018 aka TOMORROW by Abaddon
Gull finds Kaseem Greenshank in Lower Marsh Street while taking the air in Lambeth. The street market is lively with commerce, and the understated desperation of existence, and filth. Gull remembers when it was all marshland, before it was reclaimed, and before the Church sold the land piecemeal. The ground is still muddy, and muckrackers comb through it to see what they can find.
I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
‘Creatures’ is an anthology of five short stories all of which have been inspired by the story of Frankenstein. Much like all anthologies there is a mix of fantastic, average and not so good.
Because of that mix I have given this collection 3 stars overall but also would add the caveat that this collection is probably only going to really appeal to those who like or are interested in stories about Frankenstein.
While some have a ‘creep’ factor, there is nothing particularly scary about any of the stories and also the nuance of the message that Mary Shelley was trying to convey about playing god is lost with some of them. But then, it’s a bit hard to present such a complex theme via the short story medium and some of the stories have a bash at a very decent message of their own.
The stories are arranged in a chronological manner as follows:-
‘Kaseem’s Way,’ set in London in the mid 1800’s about a young man working in a prison who becomes interested in the cadavers for more than the traditional sense of scientific research.
‘The New Woman,’ also set in London in the final days of 1899 where a bohemian artist and her doctor girlfriend decide to embark on creating a new ‘Eve’ to impress their outlandish ‘friends.’
‘Reculver,’ an old man reminisces about a strange summer in Kent during the Second World War when he was a young boy and a peculiar ‘man’ he met.
‘Made Monstrous,’ a policeman in the 80’s and a helpful young policewoman investigate a recent spate of body part thefts from a graveyard and morgues.
‘Love Thee Better,’ in the here and now a couple go on a cruise ship that specialises in medical procedures allowing people to donate pieces of their body that they don’t want to those who do. Meanwhile the Captain partakes in an unusual hobby of his own.
So what did I find fantastic, average and not so good?
In terms of ‘not so good’:-
I think my least favourite was ‘Reculver.’ In all honesty I didn’t see the connection of it to the other stories but then I found myself skimming this one as it wasn’t the most engaging. There is a very brief moment where the creature is met (but motives are strangely unclear) and aside from that I was unsure of how this fit as it was a more a ‘coming of age’ story and the reminiscing of events that occurred during the war.
‘The New Woman’ was my next least favourite. It started slow, a group of pretentious bohemian artiste friends gathering around for Christmas dinner with discussions of the next steps of avant garde art. It kicks up when two women decide to mix science and art and create a beautiful creature of their own, ready to be displayed as a moving performance piece at their hostess’ next party. After their creation is successful one displays a guilty conscience at the treatment of their sentient new life but begins a slightly disturbing sexual relationship with her. I don’t know. It was supposed to be erotic but I’m not seeing sex with a dead body, however reanimated, as a sexy thing.
What was ‘average?’
‘Love Thee Better’ was enjoyable (if that’s the right word?) because it was genuinely disturbing in showing how, in modern times, science needs moral boundaries and regulatory bodies to monitor what people do with their intellect and technology. The claustrophobia heightens as things go from fun to not so fun and then from bad to worse on a cruise ship no one can seem to escape from. However the introduction of a ‘creature’ didn’t seem necessary as the purpose of the ship was creepy enough and unfortunately I found the narrator rather passive and highly irritating in her denial of events.
I know I didn’t include it as a category but this one was good.
‘Kaseem’s Way’ was a look at the abandonment of creator to their creation or father figure to their child. Kaseem is a street urchin found on the streets as a child by a science professor and adopted by him. Kaseem takes a keen interest in cutting up bodies for research and puts this to good use. This is interspersed with the actual creature of Frankenstein’s (in this world a real person) who laments the death of his ‘father’ and his prior cruel abandonment. Their paths cross and the creature himself abandons a creation of his own.
What did I think was ‘fantastic’?
‘Made Monstrous,’ is a clever police investigation story with a twist. We have a grizzled older policeman and a plucky younger policewoman who is constantly passed over for promotion on account of being a woman. Our policeman doesn’t believe in that nonsense and they both set out to investigate a case of grave-robbing and body stealing. The story is well paced and well written containing both a dark sense of humour, camaraderie, and a truly sad and painful message; that sometimes humans are the most monstrous.
Like I said, it’s a mixed bag (of body parts, haha. I’m so punny) but I would recommend it to you if you crave stories inspired by Frankenstein. If not, then it may not be for you.