Dave Zeltserman is an eclectic author who has received his rightful critical acclaim, but who is arguably underappreciated commercially. He has written such diverse novels as the dark, rural gothic THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELDS and highly praised crime noir novels like OUTSOURCED and PARIAH. MONSTER, his latest work, is an unanticipated left turn, even for him.
I will confess that I had strong doubts about the book’s topic when I first learned of it. Subtitled “(A) novel of FRANKENSTEIN,” I wondered what new insight Zeltserman could bring to Mary Shelley’s iconic tale. I should have had more faith. MONSTER is a unique and ironic take on the story, told from the point of view of Frankenstein’s tragic creation.
"Zeltserman follows Shelley’s roadmap just enough to infuse the proceedings with a degree of familiarity, yet his point of view and unique deviations from the original story make every page a joy to read.... MONSTER is a book that horror fans and literature aficionados can read with equal gusto."
It begins in Ingolstadt, Bavaria. The life of an unfortunate pharmacist’s apprentice named Friedrich Hoffman, a man with a comfortable existence and promising future, comes to an abrupt halt when he is wrongfully accused of murdering his beloved fiancée, Johanna, the niece of his employer, Herr Klemmen. Hoffman is brought back to this side of the veil by Dr. Victor Frankenstein, who has appropriated Hoffman’s brain and transformed him into a creature of abomination. Hoffman, whose conscious presence is now entrapped in a large body composed of a hodgepodge of limbs attached to a torso, is restrained on a table in a nightmarish environment, one in which he is subjected to Frankenstein’s dark gloating that, in turn, hints of horrors to come.
As time passes, however, Hoffman slowly regains strength; when the laboratory is seemingly abandoned by Frankenstein, he escapes from the hellish laboratory and makes his way back through the streets of Ingolstadt. By no means is this an easy task, given his large stature and grotesque appearance. But Hoffman possesses a canny intelligence that serves him well as he attempts not only to obtain his revenge against Frankenstein for subjecting him to an insane and profane experiment, but also to clear his name, after the fact, of the murder accusations.
Hoffman’s mission takes him across a varied and exotic landscape where he encounters all sorts of creatures --- from the benevolent souls of this world to frightening creatures of supernatural imagination. It ends only when he finally encounters Frankenstein and his surprising ally, who are engaged in a project even more sinister than the one to which Hoffman was subjected. Only Hoffman, a tragic yet powerful creature, stands in their way.
Zeltserman follows Shelley’s roadmap just enough to infuse the proceedings with a degree of familiarity, yet his point of view and unique deviations from the original story make every page a joy to read. Additionally, he employs a highly literary style so that his book reads as if it were written during or shortly after the literary classic from which it takes its subject matter. MONSTER is a book that horror fans and literature aficionados can read with equal gusto.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 17, 2012