Monster by Dave Zeltserman
Publisher:Overlook Press/August 2nd, 2012
Kind thanks to Overlook Press for providing a review copy
In nineteenth-century Germany, one young man counts down the days until he can marry his beloved . . . until she is found brutally murdered, and the young man is accused of the crime. Broken on the wheel and left for dead, he awakens on a lab table, transformed into an abomination. Friedrich must go far to take his revenge —only to find his tormentor, Victor Frankenstein, in league with the Marquis de Sade, creating something much more sinister deep in the mountains.
“As I write this, I can only pray that Frankenstein’s twisted soul is rotting away in whatever crevice within Hell it has surely sunk into.”
So begins Dave Zeltserman’s electrifying novel presenting the classic story of Frankenstein’s monster, from the viewpoint of the “monster.” The monster in this instance is a man by the name of Friedrich Hoffmann, who, on the eve of his wedding to his beloved Johanna is drugged and when he comes to, in an alleyway, he is covered in blood and has Johanna’s locket in his coat. He soon understands that she is dead, murdered in a most heinous way, and he has been blamed for the crime. Broken, tortured, and set to die on the executioner’s wheel, Friedrich can only hope that he will be joining his true love soon. Little does he know that a fate worse than death awaits him.
Monster is told from Friedrich’s point of view, and as he takes you from the wheel, into death, and back to a sort of unlife as the creation of the wicked, diabolical Dr. Frankenstein, you won’t be able to look away, although you may want to. I found myself pausing to cover my eyes for a moment every now and then, not only as I processed the horror that Friedrich is experiencing, but also at the moments of beauty that he manages to find in the midst of this nearly inconceivable ordeal. And there is beauty, in the most unexpected of places. When Friedrich first “awakens” and finds that he cannot move, cannot speak, and can barely keep his eyes open, he is soon introduced to Charlotte, who is only a head, in a bowl of milky liquid. At first, Charlotte repels him, but soon he realizes that she too, is a victim of Dr. Frankenstein’s depraved experiments and it is her stories (he lip reads, because she cannot speak), and assurances that he is still a gentle and kind soul, in spite of what is surely a hideous appearance, that make his days bearable. When Charlotte is taken from him, at the behest of the Marquis de Sade, and he is inexplicably abandoned, he realizes that he must be free, and find the man that made him into this monster.
Eloquently written (like a certain classic that comes to mind), Monster will take you on a journey of death, rebirth, and vengeance, and is about a man trying desperately not to sink to the depths of his tormenter. I fell in love with Hoffman, and his grief, not only at losing Johanna, but at his own condition, is palpable on every page. However, rays of light do shine through the darkness, and kindness comes from some of the most unexpected places. During his journey, he will encounter vampyres, satanic cults, and more, and it will take him to a crumbling castle, where all will be revealed. Or will it? Brace yourself when Friedrich reaches that castle. Frankenstein is a villain that will make your skin crawl, and is the ultimate embodiment of evil. He even outdoes the Marquis, and that says quite a lot. Monster weighs in at just over 200 pages, but manages to pack a huge punch. If you’re a fan of Frankenstein and the mythos that surrounds it, and love literary horror, this one’s for you. Highly recommended!