Creatures: The Legacy of Frankenstein: The Legacy of Frankenstein by Emma Newman, Tade Thompson, Paul Meloy, Kaaron Warren, Rose Biggin, David Thomas Moore (Editor) #Spooktasticreads

Wyrd&Wonder

Image credit: Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

Today I’m reviewing Creatures and I’m including this as my first review as part of Wyrd and Wonder’s Spooktastic event.  Follow the #Spooktasticreads hashtag to pick up other reviews and the like.

CreaturesI’m not shy about telling all and sundry prepared to listen (or too polite to make a hasty departure) that short fiction is not usually my thing.  I don’t know why, other than usually I find that I’m just becoming involved and the conclusion happens.  However, I have also found recently that when a book, short or otherwise, adds to an already developed story, or continues using the original story for inspiration then I enjoy it much more.  Monstrous Little Voices was the first such book that led me down this path of enjoyment (a book that uses Shakespeare for inspiration and where all the short stories are interconnected in some way).  The same can be said for Creatures.

Before I even start this review my immediate thoughts were that I loved the idea behind Frankenstein and his legacy.  This collection of five tales is the perfect way to keep this story thriving in a really original way.  I love the classics but I understand that some people like a more modern style of writing – here you find an updated story that brings a classic into the 21st century.   The stories make their way throughout history beginning around the 1850s (I think) and progressing into the modern day.  All the stories have a different concept and yet all are brought together, not only by the common thread of ‘playing God’ or discovering immortality but by the inclusion of something familiar in each story.  I’ll try not to give away too much in case of spoilers but due to the chronology of the stories and also the way they’re woven together I would suggest that readers tackle this in a straightforward story (unlike most short story collections where you can pick any story at will).  To be clear, I’m not saying you can’t pick and choose at will but I think the stories will be better enjoyed read in the order they’ve been published.

So, we have five tales and undoubtedly readers will like some more than others.  What I really like is that these stories take the work created by Shelley and through the collection bring it uptodate whilst shining a light on some modern nuances that I didn’t expect.

Kaseem’s Way is the start of the collection and harks back to a time in London when grave robbing was not uncommon.  Cadavers were needed for research purposes as demand outweighed supply sometimes gruesome deeds were committed in the name of science.  This is a perfect start to the story with it’s dark feel and fog enshrined streets.  We read of Kaseem and his fascination with anatomy.  He undertakes ‘research’ in secret within the close confines of Newgate Prison.  His benefactor is a doctor at Guy’s Hospital who seeks to make a name for himself and seems to have an interest in the reanimation of the dead.  Meanwhile we meet a character known as Adam.  Adam is full of hate, he’s also full of loneliness and is desperately sad.  On top of that, and quite unfairly, he seems to be slowly dying.  I really enjoyed this story, it contains nods to the original work (although I’m sure I probably missed more than I picked up upon) and it is definitely something of a tragedy.

The New Woman takes us forward in time to 1899 – Christmas time and the last days of the year before a new year and indeed a new era is about to begin.  A group of friends are enjoying Christmas dinner, bohemians one and all, artists, actresses, scientists and like minded.  Their discussion gives rise to the birth of an idea in the minds of one of the guests.  Fran and her partner Christine come up with a way to combine art and science.  Their creation is Eve.  This was a period that was strangely beguiled by the curious and the odd.  Collections of wonders and the like were sought after and Fran and Christine’s ‘creation’ is highly desired to turn what was going to be a wondrous New Year party into, quite possibly, THE event of the year.  This is a tale that starts off as the coming together of two minds to create something beautiful.  Unfortunately, neither of them really expected their idea to come to fruition and didn’t have the first clue what to do when they succeeded.  Ultimately, their creation created a rift where a jealous wedge found a perfect home.  A story that takes a careful look at ‘rights’.  Does the ‘creature’ have rights – should it/she be treated as human or is she simply a ‘thing’.

Reculver.  The third tale is a curious one and takes a slightly different tack.  Set during the Second World War this story is told by a now elderly gentleman as he recounts a period during his youth in which he met two strangers.  One, was Barnes Wallis – who was responsible for inventing the Bouncing Bombs – later known as the Dam Busters.  The other stranger was the one that graces the pages of each of these stories.  This is a tale of violence – and surprisingly during a time of war does not focus on the battlefield.  This is about domestic violence and looking at the monsters who live amongst us.  I was puzzled about the inclusion of Barnes Wallis (although I admit it’s a nice touch) but then I figured he’s the scientist of the story.  As with the other tales there is a recurring theme of sadness and loss  I’m still not quite sure what to make of the ending and think I might need to read it again.

Made Monstrous brings us into the 80s where a slightly jaded detective and his young rookie investigate the stealing of limbs.  This story really gripped me.  I’m not going to give too much away – it’s not a murder mystery because the bodies that are stolen from are already dead, but nonetheless it is a mystery.  At first the jaded detective takes almost a half hearted stance into the mystery of it all until the young policewoman starts to uncover certain similarities that eventually lead the two on a strange mission.  I found this story really gripping.  I wasn’t expecting a police procedural to be included amongst these stories and yet it fits really well.  Again, there are monsters of differing guises included in the story just giving more fuel to the ‘who was really the monster’ discussion.

Love Thee Better.  The final story is all about obsession.  I’m not quite sure when this is set – present day or a near future but it’s all about the way people obsess about their body.  Poor self deception and thinking that the cut of a knife will make things better.  Set aboard a strange cruise ship that never seems to call in at port this is a heady mix of people enjoying themselves quite wildly and with absolute abandon and then almost becoming saturated with it all.  It’s a story of people wanting to lose parts of themselves and others wanting to have those parts.  It’s a very unusual and even a little bit disturbing story of people swapping body parts almost as casually as they would change their hair style – but, there’s more underlying this story.  Dr Firth seems to have a project of his own and it’s quite horrifying.

I really enjoyed this collection.  I would give two provisos.  I don’t think this is supposed to be scary so if you go into it with such expectations then you might be setting yourself up for disappointment – it is however horror, maybe not blood soaked and visceral but horror nonetheless.  That being said I don’t think Frankenstein is a scary story.  I think both are meant to be thought provoking and that brings me to my second suggestion – read these stories with care.  If you race through these you will miss the cleverness that is taking place here.

Overall, I still don’t like short stories – but, when they’re brought together like this, a set of stories that told together make a whole – well, really, it’s a wonderful creation.

I received a copy courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.