*I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley. This has not influenced my review.*
I feel like I should preface this review by saying I don’t read a lot of anthologies because short stories don’t always work well for me. But I LOVE Frankenstein retellings—the original is a book with so many thought-provoking aspects to explore—so this anthology in particular had so much potential for me, and I couldn’t pass it up. Especially since these stories are on the longer side, which means more chance for me to connect with them and for them to leave an impression.
As is usually the case with anthologies, I liked some stories more than others. More thoughts on the individual stories are in the hidden section below, but there were two that stood out to me the most: “Made Monstrous” was my favorite for its story, characters, and mystery, and “Love Thee Better” had the most creative take on the Frankenstein idea and was easily the most disturbing of the bunch.
*SPOILER ALERT: My thoughts on the individual stories may contain mild spoilers.*
In “The New Woman” by Rose Biggin, a couple combines taxidermy and science to resurrect a beautiful woman. This one achieved the disturbing factor present in the original better than the previous story. It was also kind of a nod/twist to the original that their “creature” was so perfectly beautiful that they thought of her as art. Victor tried to make his beautiful in the original, but he failed spectacularly, whereas these two succeeded. This story didn’t blow me away either, but it raised some questions about art and beauty and humanity and what the creature would really be if you were to resurrect or piece together a person.
In “Reculver” by Paul Meloy, a man recalls his young life and his run-in with a monster. To be honest, I didn’t entirely “get” this one. And the Frankenstein aspect was weak. The main relation I can see is that idea of, “Who’s the real monster?” since there was a “monster” but also a very human monster in this one.
In “Made Monstrous” by Emma Newman, a detective takes on a case involving stolen body parts. This was my favorite in terms of story and characters, despite being more mystery than sci-fi or horror. The story had this great mystery that pulled me in and made me want to keep reading. It also had characters that I liked. It tackled the topic of sexual abuse and harassment. The female characters, and the whole story, provided a great feminist perspective. I even managed to connect to the MC some and feel some emotion at the end. This one also had that element of “Who’s the real monster?” as well as some sewn-together body parts.
In “Love Thee Better” by Kaaron Warren, a couple goes on a macabre cruise like no other. This was the most creepy and disturbing of the bunch, and one of the ones that adhered to the original Frankenstein monster idea the best. The whole thing had an uncanny, dreamlike feel. It pushed my suspension of disbelief really far that the characters would act the way they did, but I think this one was the best story in terms of mood and creativity.
One of the things I liked about this anthology overall was that there was a lot of inclusivity/diversity/representation. The first story had POC main characters (Black and Hindu). The second had LGBT+ main characters (a F/F couple). The third had a disabled main character (a limp). The fourth had a main character who was a survivor of sexual abuse and possibly had PTSD or something similar from it, and it was also very feminist.
I also appreciated that each story had a connection in some way to the original story, whether through theme or actually attaching body parts together, although some had a stronger connection than others.
There was also a lot of variety. Each story was set in a different time. They varied a bit in genre too; if I were to classify, I’d say two were sci-fi, one was horror, one was mystery, and one was mostly just historical fiction. And all the stories had different premises.
Unfortunately, altogether, the anthology fell flat for me. A couple of the stories captured some of that disturbing quality of the original, one pulled me in with a great mystery, and one was creative in a horrifying way, but I wanted more from this book. More of the sci-fi/horror element. More disturbingness or thought-provokingness or emotion. Maybe I was expecting too much from short stories. Or maybe I just didn’t understand the meaning in each one and what the authors were trying to convey. All I know for sure is that I wasn’t gripped by most of these. But I think each story did have its merits, and other readers may enjoy this book more than I did.
Anyone who likes short stories, a variety of genres, and Frankenstein-inspired stories.