Celebrated NYC poet Sheck richly reimagines the oft-retold Frankenstein in her defiantly original debut novel, which posits that the fabricated human was Mary Shelley’s chance acquaintance, not her creation, and has lived on into the present day.
The “monster” built by overreaching scientist Dr. Victor Frankenstein has been kept alive by his hunger to understand why he was made, how his maker could have abandoned him and the role his unique history plays in the larger scheme of the known universe. In a huge gathering of fragments, somewhat reminiscent of Guy Davenport’s eclectic and erudite fictional collages, Sheck fashions a fascinating dual narrative. Mary Shelley’s fictionalized story unfolds in communications from her mother, feminist intellectual Mary Wollstonecraft, to her father, novelist-philosopher William Godwin; and in Mary’s own diary, notes and correspondence—replete with anguished discussions of her marriage to poet Percy Bysshe Shelley—with such soul mates as her half-sister Fanny and her stepsister Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron’s mistress and herself a gifted writer. The other narrative comprises the autodidact monster’s own “notes” on such topics relevant to his own abandoned state as polar exploration, the space-time continuum, robotics and other re-engineerings of natural states, and the dramatization of conflicts between appearance and reality in China’s epic 18th-century novel Dream of the Red Chamber. Initially abstruse and puzzling, this brilliant fiction gathers both seamless coherence and immense power as its elements draw together, punctuated by the sentient monster’s appeal to his irresponsible maker: “When you first began to make me, didn’t you set out on a course you couldn’t possibly understand?”
Utterly astonishing and not to be missed.