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Good Things Come of Bad: Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein

            The universally bad reviews of the movie I Frankenstein, which I have not seen, reminded me of the retelling of the Frankenstein story by Dean Koontz.  Although Koontz’s pulp fiction style is not Tolstoy, the series is a thoughtful and devastating critique of modern materialism.  It is also fun to read.

            Unlike some modern academics who either twist Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein into the opposite of what she is saying or perhaps just can’t read (I once heard a lecturer explain the novel as caused by postpartum depression!), Koontz rightly understands Shelley’s gothic classic as a cautionary tale against man’s self-destructive penchant to believe that he can improve on God’s creation.  He also agrees with Shelley that science could be the chief weapon in man’s utopian arsenal and that the monster he creates he will no longer be able to control.

            In Koontz’s five-volume updating of Shelley, Victor Frankenstein is alive in pre-Katrina New Orleans and is bent on creating a perfect race from his laboratory in order to destroy the imperfect human race, which his creatures have been programmed to despise and hate.  Interestingly enough, they become envious of man’s love and hope and despair of their pointless existence.  Later in the story Frankenstein’s clone creates humanoids that are concerned above all with efficiency.  Their very obsession with efficiency is their undoing.

            Opposing Frankenstein is a ragtag collection of detectives, gun-toting Riders in the Sky church members and some of Frankenstein’s own creatures, led by Deucalion, his first creation.  The series has its failings (the two detectives are irritating and the wedding at the end does not make sense given certain aspects of the plot).  Nevertheless, Koontz shows great inventive powers and humor.  He is also hopeful because he shares the essentially biblical view that evil will be used to destroy itself.  Titles such as Prodigal Son, Dead and Alive and Lost Souls show that Koontz wants to write something more than horror and science fiction, although the series has sufficient blood, gore and gadgets to satisfy aficionados of those genres.

            For those who think such fiction is not worthy of a serious reading, please note that the volumes are dedicated to C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton and begin with apt quotations from each of them.  I recommend that you curl up with these readable novels, easily available through Amazon and other dealers, and take them seriously.  Let us with Koontz doubt the world’s false promises and hope in God who brings good out of evil.


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