Book Review: ‘This Monstrous Thing’ by Mackenzi Lee

Posted: 15 May 2017 in Book reviews
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Synopsis

Set in early 19th century Geneva, Alasdair’s life has been destroyed by the death of his brother Oliver. But he knows he can fix it. He knows what Dr. Geisler was missing. So together with Mary, the girl he loves, they dig up Oliver’s body and bring him back to life. But things were never the same.

Two years passed since Oliver’s death and Mary and Alasdair are still the only two who know of his resurrection. Despite his brother being alive, Alasdair feels more alone than ever. Mary deserted him back to England, and Oliver is hidden in an abandoned castle in the hills outside Geneva. Life is Geneva gets even more dangerous for clockworks and those who help/make them with the publication of Frankenstein by an unknown author. Because of this, with all the parts needed to resurrect Oliver, he would never be accepted as a part of society.

Alasdair’s life is further disrupted when his father is arrested. He disregards what he has been told and returns home to look for his mother. Instead he meets Clemence. She takes him to Ingolstadt to meet with Dr. Geisler. It had always been his dream to study at the University of Ingolstadt under the doctor, but his opinion of him becomes tainted the longer he remains in his company. What disturbs him most is Geisler plans for Oliver.

A test of their loyalties is sparked when the three of them, Clemence, Geisler, and Alasdair, return to Geneva to retrieve Oliver. Will Alasdair really let Geisler use Oliver? What will happen when Oliver learns the truth about his death? How will the brothers react when they learn who wrote Frankenstein?

My Thoughts

Of course, this is another book I learned about at NYCC 2015. I read the original copy of Frankenstein years ago after finding it at university. I didn’t know there were two versions of the book. I opted to buy the original (first) version. It is much different than I thought it would be. I still need to read the second so as to understand why there was a second one. Either way, this book definitely gives a fascinating alternative to Mary Shelley’s horror classic.

The story is very fascinating. I enjoyed how Ms. Lee took the story of Frankenstein and twisted it into something fantasy but still plausible. Something interesting I found was how easy it was to see the real world comparisons. Moreso with religion than anything else. Once someone became an ‘other’, regardless if their life was saved, they were shunned and treated worse than animals. It is sad that these people honestly believed that clockwork people (people with machine parts to replace parts of their bodies) had lost their human identity once they had a mechanical part. And then of course how people felt justified in using religion as their reason for treating them like garbage. That is blatant commentary on our current world. It’s really sad.

The main character was Alasdair, with Oliver, Clemence, Mary, the father, Inspector Jiroux, and Geisler all playing secondary roles. Most of these characters can be classified as victims, whether by their choices or the actions of society. Alasdair is a victim of his actions. He is a good person, and clever, but more good. He wanted to rectify a wrong and by doing so destroyed more lives. He became trapped by what he saw as his responsibility. I think we can all relate to him. We make choices and then get stuck because we can only see one path. Others see alternate paths, but our fears keep us from believing that we will be ok following them (like myself before completely coming out). Then there is Clemence. She is also good. She is a victim of a good deed. Seems weird, but so is saving someones life without asking and then expecting them to repay you. And that is her present predicament. She is also a victim of time and society. I shan’t divulge too much, but I can relate to her plight (wink). Both Mary and Oliver are victims of Alasdair’s choice(s) and their own reactions. Dr. Geisler is both victim and villain. He is obsessed by his work that he is a victim of society and progress, but is also villain for not caring for others as long as he succeeds. He is clever, not good. At all. Jiroux could be seen as the villain in all this, but he is also a victim of the times and society. Society’s fear of clockwork people and their loss of humanity bred in him a religious hate rather than compassion, unlike with Alasdair’s father who sought to help clockworks instead of hating them.

I found the book fairly easy to read. The writing was very fluid and engaging. Unlike most teen novels I read, this one had more complexity to it, and I liked that. Even with it’s complexity, the language made it easy to relate to the characters. The description of the era and the scenes were beautiful. It wasn’t difficult to imagine anything. I really liked her reinvention of the Frankenstein story. Very clever. And good.

My verdict, is that if you like gothic horror, science fiction, historical fantasy, and monsters, then this is a book you should check out. Definitely worth a read. Enjoy 😉

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Buy at Barnes and Noble

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