July 28, 2009

Book Review: "Frankenstein (Book One): Prodigal Son" by Dean Koontz & Kevin J. Anderson

Title: Frankenstein (Book One): Prodigal Son
Author(s): Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson
Publisher: Bantam Books
Published: February 2005
Pages: 469
Genre: Horror
ISBN 0-553-58788-9

For about a year the first two books in Dean Koontz's "Frankenstein" trilogy have collected dust on my bookshelf, unread, waiting for when I could add the third book to the collection. Well, Koontz finally announced this year that the third novel, Dead and Alive, would be published at the end up July. That meant I needed to get cracking and read the first two, so I'd be primed to read the third.

The story isn't quite what I expected, but the revisionist history of the story was rewarding in its own right.

Frankenstein's monster is still alive, and very real—turns out Mary Shelley created her story out of real-life experience with Victor Frankenstein and his experiments, according to Koontz. After two hundred or so years of isolation, now in the Tibetan mountains, the monster now known as Deucalion has learned his creator is also inexplicably alive and residing in New Orleans. He had tried to kill Dr. Frankenstein in the past, but had been programmed to be incapable of harm against his creator. Now, he seeks a second chance.

Meanwhile, New Orleans is growing fearful as a serial killer is on the loose, harvesting specific body parts from his victims. The latest victim investigated by detectives Cameron O' Connor and Michael ??? is a murdered woman. Her hands surgically removed. What they aren't aware of in the beginning is the fact that two serial killers exist. One, a maniacal narcissist out to harvest his perfect mate piece by piece. The other, a disturbed and disobedient creation of Victor Helios (the latest alias for Dr. Frankenstein).

As Cameron becomes more and more involved with the cases, she realizes things are too weird to explain through conventional means. Especially when the latest murder victim has been eviscerated, and had two hearts. And, when she encounters—confronted, really—Deucalion at the latest victim's apartment, her idea of reality goes right out the window. Just wait until she discovers who the serial killers are, and New Orleans magnate Victor Helios is involved.

There is a lot going on in this first installment, and sets up the characters and storylines quite well. A lot of it is foreboding, however, and doesn't hold any direct bearing on the main story of the serial killers. For instance, we get to know the secret life of Dr. Frankenstein, as he is in the midst of creating an entire race of his macabre creations. Even his wife, Ericka, is one of many designed by his own hands.

While on one hand, we have the story of Cameron investigating serial killings in a murder mystery with some seriously fantastic elements, there is also the often visited premise of how human Frankenstein's creations really are, and how human they really want to be. The latter is where the meat of the story lies, but it's left as back story and prelude for the second book. One can only hope that Koontz keeps at that thread in the second book and piles it on towards what I hope is a stupendous climax in the third and final book.

As it stands, it's a good take on where the Frankenstein story could have reasonably gone after Mary Shelley's classic. It's not quite the epic re imagining I was hoping for. Some of the characters are intriguing and solidly dealt with, but at time I felt it was more diversionary than diverse. Urban fantasy fans may get a kick out of this, though horror fanatics may find it disappointing. I'm both, so I meet somewhere in the middle.

Fingers crossed on the second book, City of the Night.

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