A lively and engrossing collection of female-driven fiction.

Daughters of Frankenstein


Berman (Red Caps: New Fairy Tales for Out of the Ordinary Readers, 2014, etc.) edits an anthology of sci-fi and horror from queer perspectives.

In this new anthology from Lethe Press, a cavalcade of emerging writers from the realms of horror and science fiction riffs on the concept of female (mad) scientists. The convention has a heritage: as Connie Wilkins points out in the introduction, if these women are the daughters of Frankenstein, then they are the granddaughters of Mary Shelley and great-granddaughters of Mary Wollstonecraft. Jess Nevins offer further contextualizing with the essay “From Alexander Pope to Splice: A Short History of the Female Mad Scientist,” laying out the history and evolution of the trope. Then come the stories themselves: in “The Moorhead Maze Experiment,” an ambitious psychologist attempts to outdo the Stanford Prison Experiment in terms of innovative sadism; in “Love in the Time of Markov Processes,” a lab assistant falls in love with a scientist against the backdrop of a finite universe; in “Meddling Kids,” an oddly familiar mystery-solving team with a Great Dane in tow foil a professor’s sinister plans. The tones of the pieces vary from campy to earnest to unsettling to literary, though in each case the author works to shift the ground beneath the reader and recast his or her assumptions. Standouts include a Lovecraft-evoking but ultimately intimate submission from Claire Humphrey (“This is Salem at its oldest and spookiest: cold fog off the ocean, daylight dimming early, gables and gambrels looming at odd angles”) and a wonderfully original piece by Romie Stott about a girl trapped by her father in a Fabergé egg during the Bolshevik Revolution. A few fall flat, but they are in the minority, and the freshness of the voices outweighs the occasional lack of polish. The result is a rare combination of subverted gender norms and nostalgic pulp: sometimes provocative and generally fun. While the anthology’s theme may sound niche, the reading experience argues the opposite. Short fiction fans of all stripes will find much to compel them (and to scare, excite, arouse, and amuse them, as well).

A lively and engrossing collection of female-driven fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59021-360-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Lethe Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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