A philosophical fable, fourth in the series but able to stand alone, pits an ambitious scientist against his own unnatural creation.
Aspern Grayling was born in bucolic, pacifist Arcadia, but after over 100 years, all his loyalties lie with the technocratic militaristic empire of Megalopolis. This report, ostensibly a plan of conquest, metamorphoses from a dry encyclopedic assessment to a more personal memoir (or, perhaps, confession) following his triumph: the genetically-engineered Nietzschean übermensch Pavo Vale. Incorporating allusions to the contemporary political climate, the story delivers a polemic framed in binaries: technology/nature, individualism/communalism, rational/spiritual, toxic masculinity/eternal feminine, etc. The former are personified in the monstrous Pavo, who would be cartoonishly villainous if it weren’t for his graphically brutal rapes, murders, incestuous obsession, and wanton destruction; the latter, in the immensely (and interchangeably) beautiful, wise, compassionate, multiethnic heroines of Arcadia. Only Aspern bridges the divide: He is arrogant, condescending, viciously misogynistic, transparently (and unconvincingly) justifying of Pavo’s appalling crimes, yet sympathetic in his honest admiration of any intellectual achievement, his craving for respect and admiration, and his deep, unwilling love for the Arcadian professor Devindra Vale. Black-and-white illustrations of tarotlike cards in a pre-Raphaelite style hint that the apparent triumph of Megalopolis and its values may be only temporary.
Despite the subtitle, as much Faust as Frankenstein; for teens looking for social commentary in their fiction. (dramatis personae, family tree, table of transformations, appendices) (Fantasy. 15-adult)