Dr. Frankenstein goes Downtown in D'Amato's ultrachic, ultramodern, rather grotesque first novel. Like the author (son of novelist Barbara D'Amato), narrator Jamie Angelo is a Yale graduate and Manhattan artist; but Jamie's greatest creations are known only to a few. For Jamie's sideline, which has bought him his huge loft and the means to hobnob with hipdom's cognoscenti, is the unlawful creation of beautiful people by means of cosmetic surgery using a secret new plastic and computer-aided modeling Much of the novel's opening is devoted to a clinical description of Jamie's work on actress and fellow Yalie Penny Penn (read: Jodie Foster). But as rewarding as the Penny project is, Jamie desires the ultimate challenge--to create the ideally beautiful woman. He finds his subject in a performance artist, transforming her into ""Minaz,"" an uncannily exquisite model/actress. Predictably, though, Jamie's work bites back--through sabotage by a greedy partner--and Minaz's face mutates into a cancerous moonscape, forcing Jamie to flee for his life and into a thuddingly ironic resolution. This arch if structurally predictable variation on Mary Shelley's tale forms only the bones of D'Amato's story; its flesh, as patchworked and morally ambiguous as Shelley's beast, consists of Jamie's clever, smug, name-dropping riffs on blood rituals, youth, beauty, decay, zits and how to pop them, art, wealth, poverty (""Clod, I hate the underclass. I'm sorry to say it, but it's true. They're just so lumpy and bad-looking""), and so on--adding up, no doubt, to a Message about the artificial cast of modern life. Ambitious and crackling with raw intellectual energy, but, like its inspiration, also ungainly, ugly, and perhaps even a little monstrous.