- Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Book One, Prodigal Son
- Bantam Dell, 512 pp.
“I beheld the wretch-the miserable monster whom I had created.”
In a poem pregnant with promise, Murder in the Cathedral, T. S. Eliot wrote:
“Yet we have gone on living,
Living and partly living.”
It seems to me that Mr. Eliot has, in a few short words, captured the essence of contemporary man, at least the “civilized” version. He is describing, perhaps, the spiritual devolution of the specie, a slow death of the soul. To the observant, the evidence abounds!
No writer of novels is better prepared to address this condition than Dean Koontz. He has taken it upon himself to examine society’s present milieu under the lens of traditional western mores and in so doing has presented the public with works that are perfectly entertaining and, more importantly, prescient. His protagonists and antagonists, men or women, are defined by the condition of sin that so enthralls us all. The former is cognizant of the condition and acts against it; the latter seeks to welcome it to the point of becoming not only sinful, but evil.
A recent literary critic commented that, “Koontz effectively merges science fiction and horror conventions with Judeo-Christian traditions.” And, I agree with the writer, as far as he goes. But, is Koontz really describing science fiction and horror? Could it be, that in his imagination he has stumbled across a nexus or a link to a metaphysical reality known to only a few? To a reality that is devoid of the niceties of everyday physics where what we call “horror” is more than a titillating moment, but an eternity of despair.
In his latest novel, co-written with Kevin J. Anderson, Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein, Book One: Prodigal Son, the authors’ re-introduce us to characters that were the offspring of the fecund imagination of that sweet and gentle soul, Mary Shelly. Be forewarned that all is not what we expect, not by a long shot. Indeed, the “monster” has a name, Decaulion, and, in fact, he’s no monster. And, the “mad scientist,” Victor Frankenstein, bounds through this drama with a certain elegant, albeit criminal, panache. However, Koontz should not have permitted him to eat at a certain Chinese restaurant!
While Mary Shelly’s Victor Frankenstein was merely a lunatic with a hint of megalomania, the authors have updated Victor. After all he has survived two centuries, and he is now cast as the ultimate scientist, the new rationalist. A man devoid of compassion, love, or kindness, concerned only in achieving his solipsistic definition of perfection, without regard to moral or ethical restraints. He has replaced the old God, set Him aside to whimper in empty monasteries and vacant churches, and mocked Him at every opportunity.
Koontz’s novel is perhaps a response to Dostoevsky’s profound adumbration found in his classic novel, The Brothers Karamazov, “If you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up.” And, Victor, who has rejected any faith in a transcendent God, has succeeded in “creating a New Man,” perfect physically but flawed in that he possesses a spiritual ennui that drives him as Decaulion says, “(to) embrace any philosophy that filled the void.” But, Decaulion’s wisdom is irony writ large, a condemnation of man’s inimical philosophies. In describing their painful search for an answer to the nihilistic void he comments, “Freud, Jung, Skinner, Watson….Rorschach. Psychiatrists, psychologists. The most useless gods of all.” And thus the “creature,” sums up the folly of rational man.
In Koontz’s novel the dimensions of the universe are in collision. We are brought to the door of chaos, anarchy, and destruction. In chilling, vivid detail, the authors will keep the reader on the edge of his chair, as they begin the journey toward the ultimate blasphemy!
Prodigal Son is an outstanding read. The second book in the series, City of Night, is due out this summer.