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Frankenstein: Book One, Prodigal Son- Dean Koontz

In Book Reviews, fiction, horror on August 16, 2010 at 8:09 am

Modern Day Prometheus Is Up To No Good

Dean Koontz reworks Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein, placing both Victor Frankenstein and his creation in modern day America.  Koontz’s contemporary version has Victor Frankenstein as Victor Helios, a name chosen by the maniacal doctor to reflect his own belief in his power.  Helios was the god of the sun, a powerful deity, and Victor sees himself as just that:  a deity.  His first creation, often mistakenly referred to as Frankenstein (Shelley never meant the creation to be considered a monster; the doctor manipulating the creation of life was her monster) is named Deucalion. Koontz’s naming of this character reflects the subtitle of Shelley’s original tale:  Frankenstein, Prometheus Unbound.  Prometheus was the Greek god who gave mankind fire (and paid dearly when Zeus found out!) and Deucalion was his son.  Interestingly, Deucalion and his wife Pyhrra were the only beings left alive after the flood Zeus inflicted on mankind because of their wickedness.

Frankenstein is set in New Orleans, and in addition to Deucalion and Victor Helios, there is a cast of characters all acting in tandem around a central story of a serial killer terrorizing the Cresent City.  Detectives Carson O’Connor and her partner Michael Maddison are working to catch him before the body count gets any higher.  The serial killer, Roy Pribeaux, doesn’t kill indiscriminately, however.  He’s looking to construct the perfect woman out of the perfect parts he’s collected from women.  However, a new killer arrives on the scene, a killer who takes out internal organs, and not just from women.  The detectives have to determine what the truth of all the killings is if they ever expect to find the killer.  In addition, the story involves Victor Helios, who has moved on from just creating one being 200 years ago and now has a legion of beings he’s created and who have been sent out into the city to live and work among the humans he intends to someday eliminate.  Victor has also improved himself, with countless surgeries to keep him forever young.  But something unexpected has happened to Victor’s creations:  they are beginning to think for themselves.  His wife, Erica 5 (an improvement on the previous four) reads poetry and has found hope in life; another creation Victor intentionally made with autism has become obsessed with finding others like him who he sees have achieved something he hasn’t, happiness; and yet another seems to be opening up humans to find out what it is inside them that makes them happy.

Koontz’s Frankenstein retelling is interesting, and he is particularly successful in making Deucalion an appealing and likable character.  Unlike the sophisticated man Victor Helios, who is really a monster, the scarred and gigantic Deucalion is a thoughtful creature who fights his rage and knows he must do whatever he can to stop his creator.  The story is compelling and engrossing.

The problems with the story stem from the way the book is structured.  Each time the author switches the point of view from one character to another, a new chapter is begun.  He switches often, which results in 97 chapters in a 469 page novel.  Some chapters are only three pages long, and the effect of jumping from character to character and beginning a new chapter each time is distracting.  Often the chapters deal with the same event from a different point of view, but longer chapters would work just as well and be less distracting.  In addition, Koontz doesn’t finish the story with this first book.  In fact, he ends this book before the serial killer is found and nothing is wrapped up at the conclusion of the book.  While I certainly understand the author’s idea to create a series, the end is unfulfilling, to say the least.  Will readers continue on to the second installment of the Frankenstein series?  Probably, but it still seems a poor way to end a novel.

Overall, other than the chapter divisions designed for those with ADD, this story is a good one.  I have never been a Frankenstein fan, but I find that I want to read the second novel because of Deucalion, the character most associate with the name Frankenstein.  Koontz’s monster is anything but, which aligns him with Shelley’s intent in her original story.
-Alexandria

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  1. […] trilogy, City of Night, picks up where the first novel, Prodigal Son (see review of Book One here), leaves off.  Deucalion, the original creation of Victor Frankenstein (now called Helios), knows […]

  2. […] it to the third book and didn’t know that, you just didn’t get the idea from page 1 of Prodigal Son, Book One in the […]

  3. […] last three books. However, this one doesn’t even do as much as the first book in the series, Prodigal Son, did to set up the other two books after it.  As much as I enjoy the character of Deucalion, I may […]

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