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Geek Girl’s Fictional Junk-Food-O-Rama – “Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein”
I’m not ashamed to admit that I can be completely about escapist literature when I want to be. For as long as I’ve been able to read, I have read for fun, and as the weather turns to the stiflingly hot, sometimes unbearably humid days of a landlocked summer, my brain does not want a whole lot of plot threads to track. That doesn’t mean that my brain just wants to coast, either. Summer becomes a tricky attempt to find the balance of a book engaging enough to hold my interest that doesn’t finish off what the heat has started.
One of my go-to authors for that balance is Dean Koontz. I actually have one of my aunts to thank for him. She leant me Dragon Tears one summer by mistake when I was a teenager. (I’d actually wanted to borrow Through the Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King, because I was curious to see what kind of a fairy tale that man would end up writing. Admittedly, this was before I had ever read any Stephen King books and long before I had started reading dark fantasy. Most of my dealings with the horror genre had been of the “ew, ick, who’d want to read that?” variety. I was still very much a starry-eyed sprocket heavily in the throes of sci-fi fandom with forays into fantasy fiction largely ushered by Neil Gaiman.)
I’m going to admit that Dragon Tears gave me nightmares. There were such vivid descriptions in that book that I could picture all of the characters and what the were doing almost as well as if I were watching a movie. While I didn’t really like the nightmares, I did enjoy how riveted I was to the story. I also discovered that as soon as I finished the book, the nightmares stopped, because I knew how everything ended. This is a trick that has stayed with me since. It doesn’t even matter if the ending is ambiguous. So long as I have finished the book, I will have untroubled sleep.
Last summer, I discovered Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein. Because of the death of a couple of my favorite authors who were in the midst of series when they passed on, it’s pretty much become one of Geek Girl’s Rules of Reading that I do not start reading a series until the series is finished.
When Frankenstein: Prodigal Son was published, I was curious about it. I was almost curious enough to break my cardinal Rule of Reading. But, despite the fact that, as far as I knew, Dean Koontz was alive and well and working on the next book already, I resisted. A couple more books emerged on the shelves, but still, none of them contained that magical “final book” statement that would finally allow me to just go ahead and purchase them already.
Finally, The Dead Town, which was book 5, was published, and I could finally start reading the series. I bought it for an extended road trip, even more grateful that I had my Nook, which meant that I would not have to lug around five books. Instead, I was only going to have to haul around the Nook. It’s not a coincidence that one of the chief reasons that I like having the Nook is because it frees up luggage space so that I can get more books in there to take home with me.
So, in the middle of August, in the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle, I settled myself into the seat and started reading Koontz’s take on the Frankenstein story. Sure, there’s a lot of pretty heavy-handed allegory going on in the series, with Koontz’s bias on the subject readily obvious. However, it really doesn’t take a whole lot of willful oblivion to just ignore that in favor of reading a fresh take on the old idea of science going completely haywire and read it with the glee of a starry-eyed little sprocket seeing their very first monster movie where they didn’t have to cover their eyes during the scary parts.
One of the things that kept me reading was the character of Deucalion. If you aren’t familiar with Greek mythology and want to take a minute to do a quick Google search, don’t worry, I’m not going to judge you. I like mythology and, while I recognized the name Deucalion from mythology, I had to look the name up myself to place it. Before you Google, though, be forewarned: the simple act of looking up that name is going to be a spoiler. So, if you want to read the series and hate spoilers, just do yourself a favor and resist the urge to do the research.
Deucalion is enormous and very noticable. This is, naturally, a problem for a scientist who wants to create a super race of human-like beings. It doesn’t help that Deucalion actually has opinions of his own and acts upon them, which ultimately leads Victor Frankenstein to try and kill him. It’s really not a big shocker or a spoiler to reveal that, of course, Frankenstein doesn’t succeed in killing his monster. Deucalion also remains one of the least fleshed-out characters that I’ve really enjoyed. Bits and pieces of his personality and his history are revealed, but he remains, largely, a mystery. He is a man of few words and lives a very simple lifestyle. He’s haunted by his demons and possessed of great powers. Surprisingly, while many readers might assume that would make him a frustrating character, instead, it makes him perfectly suited to his role in the story.
Much is done to make Victor Frankenstein repulsive. Everything he does shows that he is pure evil, distilled over centuries into a supervillain of epic proportions. There is nothing offered up in the pages to make Frankenstein a sympathetic or even understandable character, but he is not an irrational, ranting bad guy. Instead, he’s frighteningly good at rationalizing his twisted logic in a manner that is so intelligent and so cold it’s terrifying.
The characters are simplified and a little bit stripped-down, but they aren’t so reduced that they become either caricatures or scenery. They’re all there for a purpose, and the ways that Koontz converges his plot lines makes the story a satisfying, pulpy read. It’s a horror story told through an action movie lens, full of suspense and intrigue. Even though I knew that certain events were going to have to happen, I didn’t know how it was all going to pull together.
There is some humor peppered through the story, and while the first books do actually form what seems like a complete trilogy, the final two books give a broader story arc that I found to be a more satisfying conclusion. Mostly, though, I think that I found the books so enjoyable because the story was the fictional equivalent of sitting in the back of a pick-up in lawn chairs at a drive-thru theater on a warm summer night with a bucket of popcorn the size of a medium-sized dog and Cokes as big as your head watching a monster movie marathon under the stars. In the summer, it doesn’t get much better than that.