A questionable mishmash of cultural, scientific, literary, psychological and political material gives birth to an...

THE CASEBOOK OF VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN

Prolific literary polymath Ackroyd (Poe, 2009, etc.) rearranges the original gothic horror story of ambition gone awry into a blend of autobiography and history.

Mary Shelley is herself a character in this recasting of her novel; she’s one of several real-life figures whose paths cross that of the ambitious, privileged Swiss seeker attracted to all that is new and radical. Victor Frankenstein finds an ally in fellow Oxford student Percy Bysshe Shelley, a passionate atheist who shares his ideas of a new, fairer society of men uncoupled from divine creation. Consumed with curiosity about “the spirit of life,” Frankenstein experiments on the dead using electricity to reinvigorate them, seeking to create a human unencumbered by class, society or faith. Obtaining his bodies from grave robbers, he eventually succeeds in reanimating a very fresh young corpse, endowing it with enormous strength in the process, but also horribly changing its appearance. The monster learns it is an object of disgust to other humans and begs its creator for a companion, but Frankenstein, now horror-stricken by his achievement, refuses. Having already killed Shelley’s first wife, the monster promises misery to its maker as part of their indissoluble bond. Bizarrely, Victor joins Byron, Shelley, Mary and Dr. Polidori for the Villa Diodati sojourn at which his own story is born, but in this version the conclusion lies back in London, different and dubious.

A questionable mishmash of cultural, scientific, literary, psychological and political material gives birth to an atmospheric but unnatural doppelgänger to Shelley’s classic.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-385-53084-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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